GMR and government to seek “win-win situation”: Razee

Infrastructure company GMR has said it will deduct revenue received from collecting a US$25 (Rf385.5) Airport Development Charge (ADC) from every passenger departing on an international flight from the concession fee to be paid to the government.

GMR informed Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) last Thursday of its decision. MACL officials had not responded to inquiries at time of press.

GMR planned to begin collecting the ADC at midnight on January 1 this year as per its contract with the Maldives government. Revenue was expected to amount to US$25 million (Rf385.5 million) in 2012, and would be put towards the ongoing development of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

However, a Civil Court ruling in December blocked the ADC on the grounds that it was identical to an existing Airport Services Charge (ASC) of US$18 (Rf277.56). The company’s shares on the Mumbai stock exchange subsequently fell 7.57 percent, India’s Economic Times reported.

The government subsequently appealed the case to the High Court. Meanwhile, GMR is not collecting the ADC.

Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee said that the concession agreement between GMR and the government assured each party a certain level of income.

“Because the ADC was included as revenue, until the matter is resolved any money that was going to be received from the ADC should be deducted from what GMR owes the government,” Razee explained.

Razee said that the Ministry of Finance will work with GMR and the government to resolve the matter, adding however that much of the decision rests on a verdict from the High Court.

He added that the related Amendment of Collection of Airport Tax (international travelers) Act 7/78 Bill is also before the Parliament, which is currently in recess until March.

Razee was optimistic about the outcome, however far in the future.

“The contract between the government and GMR allows for certain changes which are mutually respected and agreed upon by both parties,” Razee observed. “They will reach a win-win situation, even if some revenue is lost.”

GMR previously noted that the payment of a development fee was “a common concept in many airports globally”, particularly as a part of concession agreements where airports are privatised.

“The reason for the inclusion of ADC in many global concession agreements is to address the funding needs to meet the investment model required to upgrade and develop new airport facilities at significant costs,” GMR stated.

The company further claimed that the charge was included in the concession fee proposed between GMR and the government in 2010.

Meanwhile, in April India’s Supreme Court ruled against the charging of airport development fees which are not approved by India’s Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA). However Delhi airport, developed by GMR, continued to charge the fee as GMR had obtained permission to collect the sum in 2010.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for INIA’s new terminal on December 19, President Nasheed said he wished to assure GMR that the government was “200 percent behind your contract, and every single other contract the government has signed with any other foreign party in this country. Not just contracts signed by our government, but also contracts that any ruler of the Maldives has signed with any party. We will honour it.”

The public response has not been so positive. Following GMR’s closure of duty-free shop Alpha MVKB, company CEO Ibrahim Shafeeq organised a protest under the slogan “Go GMR Go!” The protest was held on the grounds that the company was “demonstrating our opinions and dislike of what GMR has done to us and to get public responses,” Shafeeq told Minivan News at the time.

Kulhudhuffushi-South Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed also proposed an amendment to the Business Registration Bill in a bid to reserve airport shops and services for local ownership and “clip GMR’s wings”.