The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has entered a $135m loan agreement with the Government of Timor-Leste for the expansion of the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport (DIL).

ADB’s loan will be used for building a new air traffic control (ATC) tower, runway extension and reconfiguring relevant facilities on the airside.

The existing runway of the airport does not conform to the safety norms of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The new project will improve the safety at the airport and is expected to support more airlines and passengers, as well as boost cargo flows.

Located in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, Presidente Nicolau Lobato Airport serves as the main gateway to Timor-Leste, with 90% of arrivals from abroad.

The expansion of the airport will support Timor-Leste’s strategic development plan 2011–2030, which focuses on infrastructure development to strengthen economic growth and reduce inequality.

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Prior to the pandemic in March 2020, Timor-Leste witnessed regular direct flights only to Australia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Upon completion, the project is expected to improve international connectivity while supporting Timor-Leste’s efforts to be a part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional and global trade agreements.

In addition to improving global connectivity, the airport expansion is expected to boost trade, tourism, labour movement, as well as create new employment opportunities.

The airport’s operation and maintenance are expected to be taken over by the private sector.

ADB Timor-Leste country director Sunil Mitra said: “The Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport Expansion Project will offer safe and efficient air transport, enhance the country’s connectivity and economic ties with neighbouring Asia and Pacific countries, improve trade, investment and tourism, which will facilitate the diversification of the economy.”

Last November, ADB agreed to provide a $150m concessional loan for major airport upgrades in Nepal.