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PM gives update on Argyle Airport project

PM gives update on Argyle Airport project

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Turn back the clock: August 8, 2005, Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves passionately tries to pitch the case to the nation for the construction of an international airport at Argyle. As expected, it drew mixed reactions -some positive, some partisan, some cynical, others cantankerous.{{more}}

The rest is history.

On Monday, November 10, 2008, exactly three years and three months after the Prime Minister’s now famous speech, he went back to the same podium at the Methodist Church Hall to bring the nation up to date on the project in a speech lasting 1hour and 27 minutes.

Before an audience comprising over 45 local, regional and international airline operators, Chief Executive Officers, managers, aviation experts and senior civil servants, Dr.Gonsalves spoke on the case for building an international airport; the socio-economic value of having an international airport; and updated the nation on the progress of the project.

Along with the regional carriers such as Liat, Caribbean Airlines and Mustique Airways, were representatives from international airlines such as Air France, American Airlines, Air Jamaica, Continental, United, Air Canada and Delta, and Freight carriers such as Amerijet, Aeropostal, Mountain Air Cargo, DHL and Federal Express. The Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) was also represented by its Director General, Rosemond James.

“Inside of the state administration, there were agnostics, not in the political directorate. Indeed, if there were any agnosticism in any member of my Cabinet it was not articulated to me….I know that there were public servants who were agnostic,” said Dr.Gonsalves as he reflected on the moment when he first pitched the idea for the building of an international airport.

“So they were polite. ‘Yes, Prime Minister, you think so,’ but there were a few hearty souls who were in the trenches of conviction with me and one of them is my old Latin Teacher, C.I. Martin (Fiscal Advisor to the Government), the wise one who is now sitting at the back, who was there with me persevering, and together we were seeking to persuade those who were the non-believers. …In time, as they saw how we moved with discipline and professionalism, and as the government of Cuba, Venezuela, the Republic of China and Trinidad and Tobago came aboard, even the most non believing of the doubting Thomases said ‘yes, it looks as though this thing is not only possible but it will be done’.”

“It is an amazing act of selfless internationalist solidarity which we in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will never forget.”

Once the weather holds, Dr.Gonsalves said he believes the airport is now poised to be completed before the end of 2011, or even sooner.

Just before he concluded his presentation, Dr.Gonsalves said, apart from Government’s commitment to meet the cost of property acquisition and project management totalling $163 million, Government has now received from its coalition partners grants or pledged grants totalling EC$388 million: Cuban and Venezuela EC$279 million, Austria EC$502,000, Taiwan EC$81 million, and Trinidad & Tobago EC$27.7 million. He said the grants from Cuba and Venezuela are not all cash, but also include in kind contributions such as technical expertise, machinery and materials to be used on the project. (HN)