Friday, February 15, 2013

Cabinet nod for ASA revision with UAE, signing contract with China CMC for Pokhara regional airport

The caretaker government today gave green signal for the revision of air service agreement (ASA) with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and construction of Pokhara regional international airport.
The cabinet today evening decided to go ahead with the construction of Pokhara regional airport that was halted since last July due to 'corruption' controversy.
The lowest bidder for the regional airport China CAMC Engineering Co had quoted 85 per cent higher than the government estimated cost for the project leading to suspicion of huge corruption by Dr Baburam Bhattarai-led government. One of the local UCPN-Maoist local leader also went on record accepting the bribe for the airport too.
The much-controversial Pokhara regional international airport planned some three kilometers east of the existing airport has received green signal today after the Chinese company showed willingness to develop the project at the government-estimated cost, according to the ministry.
Among the three shortlisted Chinese companies, the China CAMC had quoted $305.13 million, while the government had estimated the project to cost between $166 and $170 million only.
Though, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal is the executing agency of the project, caretaker Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has personally shown interest in awarding the project to the Chinese company without following the course of bidding process, according to a source at the ministry.
Earlier too, the project was halted after the intervention by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).
The government plans to borrow around $145 million in soft loans from the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) to fund the project.
A detailed study of the airport project in 1989, conducted by the government in association with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), had proposed a 2,500m long and 50m wide runway, a terminal and a cargo building. The construction of the airport, expected to be completed in four years, was estimated to cost $39.6 million in 1989 has gone up to $170 million, now.
The CAAN unions opposed the project claiming it to be financially unviable project, whereas the locals protested demanding the regional international airport in Pokhara that has remained idle since 1975.
Likewise, the cabinet has also asked the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to form a committee for the talks with the UAE to revise the ASA as it had been long due because of parliamentary decision on December 13, 2011.
Nepal had signed an air service agreement with UAE in 1999, which was revised in 2007. Apart from the UAE, the ministry is also preparing to revise air service agreements with the UK, Saudi Arabia
and Pakistan and preparing to sign an ASA with Vietnam, Indonesia, US and Australia, apart from revision of fifth freedom right – right to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country and from that country to a third country – with some countries.
Nepal has entered into ASAs with 36 countries.

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