Let us consider long-term economic viability of projects before spending

BY: Graphic Business

The rising cost of aviation fuel and other market uncertainties have forced domestic airline operators to abandon the Ho Airport in the Volta Region indefinitely.

That development has ignited questions on whether it was prudent, in the first place, for such an airport to be cited in Ho, which is just about 134 kilometres (km) from the national capital, Accra.

The sudden turn of events also threatens the expected boost in economic activities and tourism in the region, after $25 million of taxpayers’ money had been sunk into the project, amid pomp and circumstance.

As indicated in our lead story today, while Passion Air began operations to the Ho Airport from December 2021, it has been forced to halt operations since March 25, this year.

The Africa World Airline (AWA), which also commenced a market analysis in April last year on the same route, has abandoned that plan until further notice.

The airline operators, according to the story, attributed their decision to low patronage, the rising cost of fuel due to global events and the depreciation of the local currency against the country’s major foreign trading currencies, particularly the United States dollar.

The Graphic Business finds this development worrying, in view of the fact that a lot of investment has gone into the project, which was expected to boost the economy of the Volta Region.

At the onset of the project, there were those who questioned its economic viability, in view of the proximity between Accra and Ho. They argued, among other things, that traffic from Accra to that region was not heavy and, therefore, it would not be profitable to site an airport in that region.

Data sourced from the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) showed that the Ho Airport processed some 350 passengers in December through Passion Air, representing less than one per cent of the 722,721 passengers who travelled by air within the country last year.

Passion Air was flying two times per week (Fridays and Sundays) to Ho, with rates starting from GH¢150 on a one-way flight.

The data from the GCAA tell the full story and, therefore, we are not surprised to see this latest development.

This was to be expected because experts again made the point that in the initial stages, it might look profitable, but the slightest change in the economic outlook, as we presently saw, would force the airlines risking that route to bow out.

The Graphic Business undoubtedly believes that if the funds used to build the airport had been used to dualise the road linking the two regions and properly tolled and decorated it with beautiful streetlights, the country would be better off than having that airport in the region.

Without belittling the people of the Volta Region, we sincerely are of the view that travelling by road in comfortable conditions would have rather been more beneficial to the people of the region because of the numerous economic activities that would have sprang up along the well-developed road network linking the two regions.

The development, the paper believes, should be a lesson to us as a nation when picking projects for the people.

We should be able to critically consider the economic benefits of such projects before spending huge sums of taxpayers’ money on what will not stand the test of time.

Economic considerations should at all times override political considerations, particularly when experts have spoken, not against the project per se but seriously compared it to other alternatives.

We are more than happy that the government of the day quickly abandoned a similar project in Cape Coast in the Central Region. That, to us, would have been another disaster economically because that one too is too close to Accra and a proper road network would have been a better option.

Funds for development are hard to come by and, therefore, we must be prudent in our judgment to ensure that we are not found wanting at the end of the day when we should be celebrating success.