Massive plan to revamp airport

Massive plan to revamp airport

MASERU – THE government is mulling a M15 billion project to revamp Moshoeshoe I International Airport, thepost heard this week.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport Mothabathe Hlalele said the plan to rehabilitate the airport has been on the cards for some time.
Kuwait has offered a M15 million loan to help Lesotho implement the project.

Hlalele said the agreement was that the money should be used only if the project is viable.
He said there are also four other donors who are interested in working on the project to rehabilitate the airport.
Hlalele said the ministry has engaged a consultant from India to conduct a feasibility study on the project.

The ministry is studying the Economic Rate of Return (ERR) for the rehabilitation of the airport.
The ERR is defined as the interest rate at which the cost and the benefits of a project, discounted over its life, are equal, according to BusinessDirectory.com.
This was done through discussion among different stakeholders from various ministries and departments on how best they could contribute to the success of the project.
“The study was submitted to the donors but because the ERR, which was predicted to be four percent, the donors (refused) to fund the project because they expected the minimum ERR to be 10 percent for the project to be considered as an investment,” he said.

It was explained that the low ERR was due to lack of information and that during the feasibility study, only one benefit was highlighted.
Hlalele said the ministry believed many other benefits accruable from the project were not adequately publicised, a situation that would be rectified after the feasibility study.
A subcommittee Cabinet of ministers headed by Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane has been formed to ensure the project succeeds.

He said they have tried to use different commodities which include cannabis, mining, tourism and others to improve the ERR and they have increased their scope of benefits.
“It is our mandate that Lesotho should have this kind of project which can compete with other airports like O.R Tambo International Airport which is Africa’s biggest and busiest airport,’’ he said.
He said they have already held a meeting with the management at O.R Tambo so that some aircraft could be routed to Moshoeshoe I International Airport to ease congestion the airport.
O.R Tambo serves 21 million passengers a year, Hlalele said.

“This serves as an advantage for Lesotho to rehabilitate MIA,’’ he said.
He said the project could contribute massively to the economy of Lesotho in general and create thousands of jobs.
“We are looking at a budget of M10 billion to make this project a success,’’ Hlalele said.
The director of the civil aviation department, Motsoaole Lesupi, said their mandate is to ensure smooth air transportation and to promote flight safety since aircraft are now flying at their own risk.
“We have a technical team to ensure safety on flights,’’ he said.
Lesupi said the government of the United Arab Emirates has shown interest in using the Moshoeshoe I International Airport as a regional hub and “this will attract local and foreign investment”.
He said if successful, the development would help market Lesotho abroad.

However, Lesupi said the main challenge they are facing now is lack of funds to train their staff locally.
There is also a challenge of airstrips, fences and buildings which have been vandalised by the community.
Another challenge is getting land to expand the airport and routes from the airport since local villagers have built their houses close to the airport.
Airport general manager Letsoaka Sekonyela said their mandate is to build a huge airport since Moshoeshoe I International Airport is the biggest airport in Lesotho suitable for use by international airlines.

“The project involves the improvement and expansion of infrastructure,’’ Sekonyela said.
He said the purpose of the project amongst others is to improve the pavements to comply with Civil International Aviation organisation standards.

Sekonyela said the rehabilitation will also include work on the existing runways and associated works while the main runway will be expanded by 1 000 meters to accommodate large aircraft.
“The airport master plan includes the provision of commercial development such as hotels, conference facilities and shopping centres,’’ Sekonyela said.
Thabo Thobei, a local consultant, in his presentation said the minister commissioned the economic feasibility study in 2014.
The aim of the study was to analyse the means and methods that could be adopted to improve and upgrade Moshoeshoe I International Airport, Thobei said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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