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Govt suspends controversial CJIA expansion project, restart depends on Chinese negotiators

by Zena Henry

Guyana has put a one-week halt to the expansion work at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and is expected during that time, to meet with executives of the China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC) to hammer out differences concerning their contract.

Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson told Demerara Waves Wednesday July 22, that the work at the country’s largest airport was suspended over the weekend until July 27. He explained that executives of the Chinese company should arrive in the country today, Wednesday July, 22, 2015. However the continuance of the project on July 28 will depend on the outcome of negotiations.

Patterson said, “Without suspending it (project), we were incurring additional cost. So we suspended it for a week, and CHEC’s senior representatives are coming in the country today; and I do think it will be to resolve; and if it is resolved amicably we will recommence on July 28.”

The stated cost and additional sums being requested by the company has been a major concern of the government. Patterson said that what he and his team have looked at since reviewing the project is that, “preliminary work before the contract was signed seems to have been written at the back of a postage stamp.”

He said, “no one has been able to say to me what were the briefs of Terms of Reference or whatever it was that was given to the Chinese to prepare their tender for the project.” Now, he said, “We have a contract, and the Chinese are claiming that they were not provided with enough information, the government side is saying well you signed the contract…”

Patterson said it was finally determined that the negotiations may have happened right at the then Office of the President (OP), but the negotiating team is unknown. He reiterated that nowhere was he able to get documentation pertaining to the lead up of the contract being signed, which would revive the then opposition’s claims that no feasibility studies and preliminary work was done before signing the contract.

Patterson said the Chinese came in August 2011, and by November of that year a contract was signed, with work commencing a year later and by a year and a half later, the Chinese were saying they did not have enough information. He said they complained about the scope of work and are asking for more money.

He continued that the Chinese have requested US$46m more as part of their contract. This will take the runway expansion to US$120m exclusive of work to the terminal building and environs.

Demerara Waves understands that the Chinese are unwilling to re-model the terminal building. There are concerns also over the soil type which has made construction difficult because of sinking. The runaway expansion is now being done on both north and south ends of the strip since the unfavourable soil type makes it difficult for the construction on the northern end alone.