The World Bank’s board of executive directors this week approved four Caribbean Regional Air Transport Connectivity Projects, for a total of US$159 million, to improve regional connectivity.
These projects include International Development Association (IDA) financing of US$13 million for Dominica, US$17 million for Grenada, US$84 million for Haiti, and US$45 million for Saint Lucia.
The plans center around improving the safety of air transport and upgrading airport infrastructure to natural disasters.
The World Bank, in its project notes, said that considering the Caribbean island nations’ “lack of land connectivity and their tourism sector’s emergence as a key economic pillar, improved air transport connectivity is key to economic growth and shared prosperity for the region.”
“The project is important to COVID-19 recovery efforts, as Haiti’s economy will benefit from enhanced connectivity and resilience.”– World Bank Country Director for Haiti, Anabela Abreu
On average, it was noted by the Bank, tourism’s contribution to GDP in the nations rose from 12 percent in 2011 to 15.2 percent in 2017 and accounted for 4.3 percent of jobs during the same year.
“Almost half of these contributions can be traced to capital investment in the travel and tourism industry while a third is linked to tourism-related service industries,” the World Bank said.
The Bank outlined that the countries are highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change and that “the shock of the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the panorama of OECS economies.” The climate events have further demonstrated the critical importance of climate/disaster resilient transportation systems, it was noted.
The World Bank said that while COVID19 and local containment measures have paralyzed the tourism sector, economic recovery will rely a lot on the capacity of St Lucia’s airports to support safe and resilient air transportation.
Elements of the projects for the four Caribbean nations include Improvement of runway safety and resilience; Modernisation of air navigation systems; Institutional strengthening; Project management; and Contingent emergency response.
The World Bank’s first financing of airport projects in the Caribbean will also facilitate connectivity and support during the COVID-19 recovery phase.
In Haiti, the project will modernize air transport infrastructure and support critical improvements in safety, resilience, and regulatory oversight,’ said Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti.
She said, “The project is important to COVID-19 recovery efforts, as Haiti’s economy will benefit from enhanced connectivity and resilience.”
In Grenada, project targets include installation of air navigation and safety equipment and preparation of an aviation sector strategic plan in Grenada.
The project for Saint Lucia aims to improve operational safety and navigation and enhance the resilience of airport infrastructure to natural disasters. This will include improvements to the runway of the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) and its associated facilities.
Haiti will receive a grant, and the three Eastern Caribbean islands will receive concessional financing with a maturity of 40 years, including a grace period of ten years.