AVL begins repayment of Vt60m loan from Gov

AVL Director Mark Stafford (l) hands over check for loan repayment Minister of FEM Gaetan Pikioune witnessed by Chairman Bakoa Kaltongga and CEO Jason Rakau (r).

By Jonas Cullwick

The Chairman of Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL), Bakoa Kaltongga, has assured the Minister of Finance and Economic Manager (MFEM), Gaetan Pikioune, that AVL intends to begin payment of dividends to the Government in 2018.

The chairman gave the undertaking during a brief ceremony in the office of the MFEM Wednesday, when the Board of AVL presented a check for Vt18,746,651 to the Minister, to begin repayment of a Vt60 million loan from the Government. He said this first payment will be followed by the final payment of Vt5.9 million to be made in December, which will enable AVL to be up-to-date with its repayment schedule signed with the government.

Minister Pikioune thanked AVL for being able to honor its commitment and start repaying the loan facility from the government and for himself as minister, on behalf of Government to receive the first payment of Vt18m with an expectation to receive a further Vt5 million at the end of this year.

“We all know about the challenges the country faced following Cyclone Pam and after that the issues of Bauerfield runway, resulting from which planes stopped coming to the country because the runway was damaged. And all these affected the operations of AVL and other entities including Air Vanuatu.

“Since then you made strides in overcoming the situations you faced and bringing back AVL, a state-owned enterprise, to its normal state of operation and profitability and able to make this payment we receive today.”

MFEM Acting Director-General Letlet August explained that the loan was advanced to AVL in 2006 to upgrade facilities at Pekoa Airport in Luganville, Santo so it can receive international flights.

“In 2014, when the first repayments of principal and interest were to start, the Board at that time did make this happen due to certain investment decisions and administrative issues,” he added.

He said that through reforms taking place with the chairmanship of Chairman Kaltongga, AVL were making efforts to ensure that AVL’s books improved before the state-owned enterprise started to pay some dividend to the government.

This current board chaired by Kaltongga, the First Political Advisor of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, is making sure the loan repayment starts before moving on with government development policy for the aviation sector. Part of this is for Vanuatu to be ready in infrastructure terms to accommodate long haul flights and increased number of tourist inflows into the country.

Chairman Kaltongga thanked the Minister for his support to the company and said: “You will appreciate that AVL faced many challenges especially after Cyclone Pam in 2015 and as a result of management issues in the past that saw terminations and appoints of new people and changes in Boards cost the company a lot of money.

“With this board that I lead we have decided to take on bigger investments and bigger operations we need for the company to run properly. I wish to assure you Minister, that after recovery and after settlement of the company’s outstanding payments AVL can pay dividend to the government starting next year”.

The handover of the check was made by AVL Director, Mark Stafford on behalf of the Chairman and the Board and the ceremony was witnessed also by the CEO of AVL, Jason Rakau.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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