Thursday, May 26, 2005

The never ending story: Airport hits another roadblock

A nod is all that holds up work on airport
Devanahalli Project Awaits Dy CM’s Clearance For Financial Closure
The Times of India

Bangalore: Even as chief minister N. Dharam Singh reiterated his commitment to infrastructure projects, the state’s flagship project — the Rs 1,411 crore Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli — has tripped over red tape, yet again.

Everything appeared set for a smooth take-off, but another “inexplicable’’ delay has surfaced. The stumbling block now has come in the form of two minor issues: a bank guarantee for the Rs 350-crore state support agreement and renewal of the shareholders agreement. State officials say it will need “just one meeting’’ to sort out these issues.

The state cabinet cleared and signed the state support and land lease agreements in January. But the consequent bank guarantee and shareholders agreement renewal remain pending with the state’s finance department.

“There are no real issues or problems. We were expecting everything to be sorted out and financial closure completed latest by May-end,’’ officials told The Times of India.

A veritable flurry of deadlines have been given for financial closure and start of construction. First it was February, postponed to March, then to April 15, then May-end.

Officials now ‘hope’ to begin by June. But no one is willing to explain reasons behind the delays, be it the airport company Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) or the departments concerned — infrastructure and finance.

Queries are blandly met with: “Deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah has to find the time to clear the two issues. Once that is done, everything can proceed.’’

Siddaramaiah was to hold the meeting last week and give his stamp of approval.
The plan was that the financial closure letter signifying start of construction would be pushed through at the BIAL board meeting on May 31. But, this is not to be.

Siddaramaiah left for Shimoga on Wednesday to campaign in the bypoll, without clearing the bank guarantee and the renewal.

The earliest date for his official meeting now is Monday (May 30), which leaves no time for financial closure before the board meeting. “We will just have to explain the situation to the board. There is nothing we can do about it,’’ officials said.

The delay has resulted in work on the project coming to a halt, pushing its date of starting even further. There is also a danger of costs going up.

Will the delay “jinx’’ on the airport ever lift?

CM promises to meet IT captains

Bangalore: Responding to the grievances of IT captains that no headway has been made in Bangalore’s infrastructure, chief minister N. Dharam Singh on Wednesday said he would meet them shortly.

“The financial closure for the international airport will happen soon. We have taken up work on some infrastructure projects. Anyway, I will speak to them about their problems,’’ Singh said during his padayatra of Chamarajpet assembly constituency.

The Bangalore Forum for Information Technology, an association of over 20 leading IT firms, met last Saturday and expressed disappointment over the CM’s remark. They felt the CM was ignoring the forum, which has almost all the leading MNC firms who work on high-end R&D. “Innumerable number of times we have approached him but till date, we have never been invited for a meeting. He has completely ignored us,” says Bob Hoekstra, CEO, Philips Software.

On the runway

Bank guarantee for the state support agreement. Renewal of state support agreement. Letter marking financial closure. Official start of construction.
Concessions agreement State support agreement Land lease agreement and signing of lease deed Consolidated navigation systems and air traffic management agreement Renewal of EPC contract


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