If you were excited about the prospect of Exuma having a new airport next time you visit, be prepared to be disappointed.
The Bahamian government has cut funding for a number of planned key projects, including Exuma’s much-needed airport updates. Pre-COVID, Exuma was one of the hottest spots in the Bahamas and a driving force for tourism in the nation. Its small airport was barely able to handle the growing number of tourists arriving, which is why it was slated to get a $44 million airport extension and upgrade.
Those plans have now been paused. The government has also cut funding for new airports in North Eleuthera, Long Island, and Abaco. Instead, PM Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Bahamas is seeking to implement a public-private partnership (PPP) programme to complete the projects.
“Given the current state of public finances, the government has had to make some very tough decisions,” Minnis said during the annual Bahamas Business Outlook.
“As a temporary measure to avoid any further deterioration in our fiscal position, we are reducing new capital expenditure for the current fiscal year. However, for a number of planned new projects, the government is exploring creative alternatives to finance such critical infrastructure.
“These projects include site works at the Exuma International Airport; the Long Island International Airport at Deadman’s Cay; the North Eleuthera International Airport, and upgrades to the Leonard Thompson International Airport at Marsh Harbour.”
Officials said the total cost for the airport projects on Abaco, Long Island, North Eleuthera, and Exuma is roughly $150 million: $65-$68 million each for Exuma and North Eleuthera; between $15 and $18 million for Long Island and $10 million for Abaco.
The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for the Bahamas, with tourism taking a major drop. The country has been trying to drive tourism back, but with restrictions and guidelines constantly shifting it has been hard for visitors and locals to make plans.
It makes sense that the government has made the hard decision to cut funding for these planned projects. However, Exuma’s growth as a tourism hub will likely be stifled by this due to the limitations it’s current small airport has.