From white elephant to regional transport hub: that’s the challenge for seven consortiums prequalified to tender for a contract to upgrade, operate and manage Mandalay International Airport as part of a public-private venture.
The Ministry of Transport’s Department of Civil Aviation announced the list of seven consortiums, selected from 16 applicants, in the Monday, December 17 edition of the state-run New Light of Myanmar.
The consortiums feature two to five companies, with at least one foreign and one Myanmar firm, and the seven were chosen based on “financial experience, experience record, qualified personnel and equipment resources”.
Among the companies seeking to win the tender are the operators of Munich, Dublin and Phnom Penh airports, along with many of the county’s most well-known construction firms, such as Htoo Construction and Asia World. Three firms linked to U Serge Pun are in the running across two consortiums, as are Shwe Than Lwin and Shwe Taung Development.
While the list contains a number of companies known for their close ties to the previous military regime, a Yangon-based civil aviation consultant told The Myanmar Times that the relative transparency of the tender process was a positive step forward for the Ministry of Transportation.
U Win Swe Tun, deputy director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said the tender was fair because it had been managed by a consulting firm from Japan.
It is not known when the winner will be announced but U Win Swe Tun said the tender would “hopefully” be finalised by the start of the 2013-14 financial year, which begins on April 1.
The final selection process will be undertaken by a committee headed by Minister for Transport U Nyan Tun Aung.
According to the government, Mandalay International Airport is capable of handling three million passengers a year but receives just a handful of international flights a week. While it was only completed in 2000, the airport already needs significant upgrades to its electrical and water systems, runway and runway lighting, according to the Department of Civil Aviation.
However, some argue it is in a position to benefit from both its geographically fortuitous location and Myanmar’s uptick of foreign visitors.
“In 10 years Mandalay could be a regional hub on level with Singapore or Bangkok,” the Yangon-based consultant said, noting that nearly 500 flights pass over Myanmar daily but never touch down.
According to the Asian Development Bank, international visitor arrivals were up by more than 25 percent in 2011, and the annual number of visitors is expected to top the one million mark this year.