The government of The Bahamas signed a loan agreement with the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) for $70 million, that will go toward funding airport infrastructure in the Exumas, a press statement released by the fund yesterday explained.
Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, signed the loan agreement and also spoke at the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s annual World Tourism Day event, according to a press statement from the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation.
Cooper and other government and tourism officials are on a trade mission to West Asia, that began Sunday with stop in Qatar. The delegation arrived in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
“On Wednesday, the deputy prime minister will sign a major loan agreement with extremely favorable terms from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, for the construction of airport infrastructure in the Family Islands that will advance the tourism sector in The Bahamas and the country’s gross domestic product,” said the tourism statement.
“This loan is a critical part of the Davis administration’s Family Island Airport Renaissance project.”
The Saudi Fund statement explained that the money will help to improve airport facilities in the Exumas, to increase the number of visitors to those islands from 237,000 to 285,000 visitors annually.
Cooper, who is the member of Parliament for the Exumas, was also expected to engage in conversations with Saudi officials to deepen the relationship between the two countries.
He said in the statement that the relationships forged at the beginning of his government’s term are starting to bear fruit.
“The relationships this administration has forged on behalf of The Bahamas throughout West Asia since coming to office have resulted in tangible, remarkable results that will move our nation forward,” said Cooper.
“Our partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Fund for Development will help transform our family island airport infrastructure in a way that has not been seen before.
“We have also had very meaningful discussions about further strengthening ties to The Bahamas and the Caribbean, by leveraging our small countries’ mighty voices and strategic alliances to advance the interests of all involved.”
The Saudi Fund statement said the agreements signed with The Bahamas and also Mauritius “are part of the SFD’s commitment to support sustainable development in developing countries and small island developing states (SIDS) around the world”.
The statement further explained that it is a Saudi government entity that provides development loans and grants to developing countries.
The tourism statement added regarding Cooper’s mission to Saudi Arabia: “Additionally, he will engage with world leaders on new tourism investment strategies and meet with high-level stakeholders and decision makers from across the tourism and investments sectors to discuss burgeoning opportunities for The Bahamas.”