Private sector to help ensure airports are ready for 2014 World Cup, says Brazilian president
By The Canadian Press
SAO PAULO — Upgrades to Brazil's airports will be opened up to private investment to ensure they are completed in time for the 2014 World Cup, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said in an interview published Thursday.
Rousseff told the Valor Economico business newspaper that the government is getting ready to make "a strong intervention" to fix the nation's overcrowded airports.
"We will accept investments from the private sector that are adequate to the needed expansion plans," she said. "We don't have any bias on how to increase the investments in that area."
Rousseff said the government will allow the private sector to bid for contracts to try to speed up the expansion and renovation of the airports, one of the biggest challenges for the country preparing to host the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
The private sector funds would supplement the public investments already planned to get the airports ready, Rousseff said, adding that a civil aviation ministry will be created to oversee the country's civil aviation agency and the nation's airport authority.
The president acknowledged earlier this week that it won't be easy to get everything done ahead of the monthlong tournament four years from now, but said she is certain the event will be a success.
Rousseff said the infrastructure investments for the World Cup will reach nearly $20 billion, including about $3 billion in the airports that will handle the more than 600,000 visitors expected to travel to Brazil in 2014.
A recent report from a government watchdog group warned Brazil about the slow pace of improvements in the airports, and even FIFA has said airport infrastructure is a problem organizers must address.
There are concerns that problems with bidding processes and environmental licensing may cause delays in the upgrades. Most airports are already saturated thanks to a rapid increase in the number of passengers as the healthy Brazilian economy creates more travel opportunities for the nation's growing middle class.
Most of the investments are aimed at improving the airports' passenger capacity.
The World Cup will be played in 12 cities across Brazil, a large nation that has no adequate ground transportation in most parts of the country.
Brazil will also host the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has praised Rousseff's focus on aviation in a recent statement, but also called for "urgent progress" ahead of the World Cup and Olympics.
It said there is a need for "a quick follow-up with critical reforms to improve the industry's competitiveness."