KATHMANDU, July 23: In a strange affair, four different employees´ union of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) have asked the management to scrap the decision to construct Regional International Airport in Pokhara, referring to "high prices" quoted by the Chinese contractors.
The unions expressed their disagreement on the construction of the airport after the lowest bid amount quoted by China CAMC was found to be nearly double the estimated US $ 166 million.
Out of three Chinese bidders, CAMC has quoted the price of US $ 305.13, according to CAAN.
“The price quoted even by the lowest bidder is almost double the initial projection. It has rendered the project commercially infeasible. We want the management to instantly annul the airport development decision,” said Daman Rawal, president of CPN Maoist affiliated Employees Trade Union.
The unions have even threatened to shutdown the airports across the country if the management did not fulfill their demand.
Organizing a program, the four employees unions on Monday said the implementation of the project would raise the airport authority´s loan burden by more than Rs 4 billion. The total annual earnings of the authority stand at Rs 3 billion.
The study carried by the CAAN had estimated the cost of developing Pokhara Regional International Project to be US $ 166 million. As the government knocked on the Chinese government´s door for its development, the Chinese Exim Bank gave its nod for a soft loan of US $ 145 million for the purpose.
Trade union officials said they were not against the construction of the airport, but argued there was no point of implementing the project if it saddles CAAN with an increased financial burden.
“If the project is a government priority project, the government should bear the interest of the loan, not CAAN,” Rawal added.
Dharmendra Pandey, president of Democratic Employees Union said that they were not against the development but the profitability has to be calculated before the implementation.
The unions have also filed the case at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), urging it to halt the process of Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract of the airport.
Top officials of the CAAN, on the other hand, stressed on the need to implement the project as there was good chance of better returns. “The big investment is not an issue as long as it is profitable,” said Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, General Manager at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
CAAN has also requested the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to arrange additional funds -- on top of the Exim Bank´s soft loan -- to implement the project.
Similarly, Director General of CAAN Tri Ratna Manandhar said that since CAAN was the government body it was important to focus on social responsibility as well. “The concern of the employees is genuine and we will make sure the CAAN will not have to bear unwanted cost,” he said.