Passengers travelling to the Volta Region are expected to benefit from the construction of a new regional airport in the capital Ho, which is set to be completed by first quarter 2017.
Managing Director of the Ghana Airports Company, Charles Asare, told the B&FT that: “Ho is very far advanced, the runway is about 80 percent complete. The terminal building has been started.
“We have enough land to develop ancillary services at the Ho Airport. We have registered Airport City for all the regions — we have Airport City Ho, Airport City Kumasi, Airport City Sunyani and Airport City Tamale. It is a registered trade mark for the GACL. That tells you the future plans we have to roll-out the successful concepts that we develop in Accra.”
Engineers working on the project expect to complete the airport’s runway by November 2016. The terminal building is also to be completed by first quarter 2017.
The siting of a new regional airport in the Volta regional capital is part of government’s policy of developing an airport in every region.
Though some experts have questioned the economic viability of the project, Transport Minister Fifi Kwetey noted that the project in Ho is part of efforts to open up the region for economic development.
The GACL has already secured US$150million in funds on the strength of its own balance sheet to fund the Ho airport project, as well as the rehabilitation of Kumasi Airport. Part of the said amount is also being expended on rehabilitation of the Sunyani and Wa Airports.
This proposition, however, raises many pertinent issues. If the heavy investment in these airports is going to be recouped with any appreciable interest so as to be able to pay back the loan at the time of maturity, domestic airlines will have to want to and fly there.
The proposed airports need domestic airlines, and domestic airlines need good airport infrastructure. But if the current burden of taxes remains, they may not be around long enough to use the proposed airports.
The imposition of a consumption tax on domestic aviation transport in July last year has led to a steady decline in domestic passenger throughput, since more passengers are opting to travel by road to major capitals in the country as air tickets remain elevated.
Latest statistics show a very significant slump in passenger throughput from an average of 55,000 passengers per month in 2014 to just under 20,000 passengers per month as at December 2015.
The drop in passenger numbers has forced airlines to continue absorbing huge losses, and the airports operator — Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) – is unable to generate as much revenue from the standard GH¢5 airport tax.
The Transport Minister however justifies the tax as a short-term measure to help government raise funds to plug the huge budget deficit.
“Short-term financial difficulties can compel some decisions to be taken, and some of the decisions which have been taken relating to the VAT and so on were done with a view to blocking an immediate short-term difficulty that has to do with the budget deficit and so on,” Mr. Kwetey said.