An update on those big promises
|Computer rendering of a new stadium, still far in the future|
The public relations machine of the government of Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele thrives on touting major development and infrastructure projects. From time to time, we need to check in on how these projects are actually faring. Here is their status at the beginning of 2023.
The Chinese projects.
The major projects which are the farthest along are those which the Salvadoran government has not had to raise the money for because they are donations by the Chinese government. These were gifts announced by Bukele after his 2019 visit to Beijing.
National Library. The new national library in the heart of the historic center of San Salvador is under construction. This video with drone footage taken yesterday shows the building rising up on one side of Plaza Barrios, facing the Metropolitan Cathedral.
Water purification and extraction from Ilopango. An announcement was made in November that the project to purify water from lake Ilopango will take the form of 8 deep wells, pumping from underground sources enough water to supply 250,000 persons for a cost of $40 million. The actual timing of the project was not disclosed.
Puerto La Libertad tourism development. The Chinese donation here was to supply mechanical rides for a small amusement park along the waterfront and to build a new pier. The amusement rides are up and running, now known as "Sunset Park", and this drone video shows the progress on construction of the pier.
National soccer stadium. After a computer rendering was shared by presidential tweet on December 30, 2021, there has been little additional progress. As this drone video taken in January shows, there has been some demolition work done at the site of the former armed forces school. When Nayib Bukele's brother, president of the national sports institute was asked about it five days ago, he indicated that he had no information on when contractors would be chosen or when construction would start. That is up to China.
Where the Salvadoran government must finance the projects, whether through borrowed money or taxes, progress is much slower. In his September 15, 2021 address to the nation, Bukele asserted that his campaign promises for construction on the new airport in eastern El Salvador, the Train of the Pacific, and a new public Hospital Rosales, and a new hospital in Nejapa would commence in 2022. None of that occurred.
An international airport in the east. On July 23, 2022, the Office of the President released a statement that construction on the airport would still start in 2022. Most recently, the president's chief of strategy and innovation, Cristian Flores, stated on January 11, that the beginning of construction was awaiting a decision from the president. (Perhaps it is also waiting on financing, since I am unaware of any figures being released on the cost of the airport to be built and who is going to finance it or what operating concessions might be granted).
The same July 23 statement indicated that the airport would be constructed with 6 gates for arriving and departing flights. That's a much smaller airport than those shown on the renderings on government websites, which all show a futuristic design with a minimum of 14 gates pictured. Those renderings are still on the frontpage of the airport authority website.
The Train of the Pacific. The most recent update for the promised train which I could find was from December 23. The Ministry of Public Works indicated that it has received the design documents for the first phase of the railroad project. This first phase will run only from the port of Acajutla to Sonsonate and will cost around $300 million. The first phase will focus on carrying passengers. There is still no indication on when the project will start, how it will be financed, or when it will be completed.
Hospital Rosales. Virtually any Salvadoran will tell you that Hospital Rosales is in disgraceful condition. It is the central public hospital for those who cannot afford a private hospital and do not participate in the social security hospital system, Despite the fact that financing for a new public hospital was approved in 2018 before Nayib Bukele took office, work on a new hospital, or even selection of a contractor to build the hospital, has not occurred as of the beginning of 2023. A related promise by the president was construction of a new public hospital to the north of San Salvador in Nejapa. That hospital is still in the earth moving stage to prepare the ground for a hospital.
Los Chorros viaduct. This is the major highway project to build an 8 lane elevated highway through the area known as Los Chorros. This area is a major chokepoint on the highway leading into San Salvador from the southwest. Five days ago in a television interview, the Minister of Public Works indicated that the government would soon be opening bids from potential contractors for the construction work. The budget for the 14.6 km stretch is currently set at $410 million with loans coming from South Korea and the BCIE for much of the cost.
The "3rd of February" dam. Formerly known as the El Chaparral dam, this hydro-electric project was renamed 3 February to commemorate the day Bukele was elected president. The long-delayed project which commenced under the Saca administration is now at the phase where it is storing up water in the reservoir behind it. From data on the website of the national electric power authority, however, it does not appear that the dam has started contributing to the nation's electricity supply.
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