Morales, AASANA on the trail of concessioned airports

- Thursday, May 18, 2006

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Bolivia's national airports administrator (AASANA) is investigating alleged anomalies in the concession contracts of the country's three main airports, AASANA technical director Félix Choquevilla told BNamericas.

By request of President Evo Morales, AASANA is investigating the management of airports La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba by concessionaire Aeropuertos Bolivianos (Sabsa).

"We've had minimum investments in these three airports," Choquevilla said, adding that the entity must first prove deviations from contract stipulations before any type of action can be taken.

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Sabsa officials have claimed to be meeting obligations as outlined in the concession contract and accuse AASANA of failing to invest in equipment under its responsibilities.

AASANA's workers union requested the revision of the contracts claiming that the private operator failed to make the necessary investments. Morales committed to revise the contracts in order to put an end to a strike held by the union.

Sabsa officials were unavailable for immediate comment when contacted by BNamericas.

AASANA SEARCHING FOR FUNDS

AASANA is also seeking ways to finance the purchase of new equipment necessary to upgrade the airports' operations.

"The government is trying to help us invest where needed," Choquevilla said. A number of entities are considering aiding the government, although there is nothing specific yet, he added.

AASANA seeks to invest in the 34 airports under its control. Also, "AASANA has administered the three concessioned airports [before they were offered under concessions] and currently runs the rest of the country's airports, therefore, it would have little difficulty in managing all airports," said Choquevilla.

The airports were awarded under concession to US consortium Airport Group International for a 25-year period in 1997, when the firm created local subsidiary Sabsa.

The US group became part of British operator TBI in 1999, which has been controlled by Spanish consortium ACDL since 2005. ACDL is 90% owned by Spanish infrastructure group Abertis and 10% by compatriot airport operator Aena.

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