Killing the new Mexico City International Airport (NAICM) would be “the biggest waste of public resources in the history of the country.”
The assessment by Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex) president Gustavo de Hoyos was one of a chorus of criticisms from the private sector following the incoming government’s confirmation yesterday that the US $15-billion project will be cancelled.
De Hoyos also described the public vote on the future of the airport, which concluded Sunday, as a “Mickey Mouse consultation” and a “fragrant violation of the rule of law.”
President-elect López Obrador said the new government will respect the will of the people — who voted overwhelmingly in favor of converting an air force base and upgrading the existing airport and that in Toluca — and cancel the current project.
That move, de Hoyos said, will taint López Obrador’s entire administration, much as the so-called Casa Blanca (White House) corruption scandal tainted the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto.
“I believe that all Mexicans are deeply worried about this irrational decision. It’s going to cost us 290 billion pesos [US $14.5 billion]. If that comes true, it will be the biggest waste of public resources in the history of this country,” the business leader told the broadcaster Televisa.
De Hoyos charged that the 121 billion pesos (US $6 billion) the new government will be required to pay in compensation exceeds the amount earmarked for any other single government project or program.
“It’s more than the 114 billion pesos the Maya Train is going to cost . . . more than moving the 31 federal secretariats, more than the 118 billion pesos that the “Youths building the future” [apprenticeship scheme] will cost,” he said.
De Hoyos challenged López Obrador to carry out a “truly representative survey” on the airport, which he called the most important public infrastructure project currently under construction in Latin America.
In a separate interview, de Hoyos told the newspaper El Financiero that the private sector will “begin to analyze the different legal scenarios in order to determine if the [cancellation] decision can be legally challenged.”
He also said the decision went against López Obrador’s pledge to “not lie, not betray and not steal.”
“. . . First, he told us that the project could be finished with private funds and today he has changed that decision,” de Hoyos said.
“. . . The squandering of public resources already invested in Texcoco is theft from the wealth of all Mexicans.”
Juan Pablo Castañón, president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), also described the cancellation of the project as a waste of public resources although his assessment of the damage was a more modest 100 billion to 150 billion pesos (US $5 billion to $7.5 billion).
However, he added that the biggest costs would come from a loss of confidence and certainty in the national economy.
“The transitional government, once it’s the government, will have to clarify how the [airport] contracts . . . will be settled,” he said.
Castañón explained that the contracts for the current project are not exchangeable, meaning that the López Obrador-led government will have to carry out a new tendering process for work at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base, where two new runways are slated to be built.
Incoming transportation secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú said yesterday that the new government will hold talks with the current administration, contractors and other key stakeholders in order to determine the best path forward with regard to canceling the current project.
Alejandro Ramírez, president of the powerful Mexican Business Council, said Mexico is losing the opportunity to have “a true air hub,” while Mónica Flores of the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico said that the opportunity to generate a large number of jobs had been lost.
Attention is now turning to what will happen to the new airport site, which is located on an ancient lake bed in the municipality of Texcoco, México state.
Federico Patiño, general manager of the group developing the new airport, said the site will have to be rehabilitated but it is not the group’s responsibility to do so.
Jiménez Espriú said that the incoming government will collaborate with federal, México state and Mexico City authorities and meet with experts and citizens’ groups to determine the fate of the site.
Although authorities said that the new airport would be one of the most sustainable in the world, its impact on the environment has been denounced by a range of organizations.