MEXICO CITY – Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday that his incoming administration would not provide an estimated $4.66 billion needed to complete construction of a new airport serving Mexico City.
However, he held out the possibility that a group of business leaders led by multi-billionaire Carlos Slim could cover the cost of finishing the project.
In a video uploaded to social media, the left-wing politician known as AMLO said that until a few days ago his team understood that the New International Airport for Mexico City (NAICM) in the municipality of Texcoco was “self-financing” since it could be offered to the private sector in a concession and therefore would not require any budget funds.
But a report the next communications and transportation secretary, Javier Jimenez Espriu, delivered to the president-elect showed otherwise.
In a meeting of the Mexico City Airport Trust a few days ago, the team building the airport now is asking for 88 billion pesos ($4.66 billion) from the public budget, said Lopez Obrador, who will take office on Dec. 1.
“That’s not possible; we wouldn’t be able to finance that,” said AMLO, who added that the report indicated the project was only 20 percent complete.
He said, however, that he has learned that Slim and other business leaders involved in the construction of the Texcoco airport are proposing that the project could be completed at a lower cost if building materials are acquired in Mexico.
“More importantly (the business leaders are proposing) they could cover the investment cost without any budget funds being used,” said AMLO, who has softened his stance on the new airport after saying during the presidential race that the project was marred by corruption and threatening to cancel it.
“In that case, yes, we could consider the possibility of continuing construction in Texcoco.”
He recalled, however, that the future of the new airport would be decided by the Mexican people in a binding public consultation planned for late October.
In that vote, citizens will decide if they prefer that work proceed on the NAICM or if they want the project to be halted and the current airport to keep running and to combine its operations with the Santa Lucia air base, now a military facility.
The total construction cost of the NAICM is approximately $13.3 billion, according to outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, although Lopez Obrador’s transition team has put the final figure at as high as $16 billion.
According to a poll published on Monday by polling firm Consulta Mitofsky, 64.9 percent of Mexicans are “hardly or not at all interested” in participating in the public consultation on the NAICM’s future.