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Airport and Carnival issues

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The idea of an international airport is once again news. What worries me is that this surfaces before every election and then to disappear until the following election. There is no doubt that every Vincentian would want to see a new airport whether Jet port or International airport as one understands it. But some serious questions have to be asked. {{more}}

I have stated before, following Ottley Hall and Canouan we have to ensure that with any major project the relevant issues are raised and widely discussed. Any project of this magnitude depends on the acceptance and involvement of the people which come once the authorities take them into their confidence and have their concerns answered.

The site which I am told is the one agreed upon is Argyle. Now what did the last consultants’ report say about Argyle and why do we conclude that it is the best option? I am not questioning the selection of Argyle, but let us know why it is considered the best option and what advantages it has over the others. I have not read the last report which was done some years ago by a group I believe was called MMM. I have however been privy to some of the issues raised. First of all, with the absence of wind studies there is an assumption that there will have to be two runways, one of them running in a different direction to accommodate inter-regional aircraft like the Avros and smaller aircraft. Is this really so and what are the cost implications? In any event it was suggested that wind studies be done over a period of five years. No wind studies have, I understand, been done at Argyle.

Someone who listened to the Prime Minister’s Press Conference last week stated that the Prime Minister indicated that wind studies are being done at Arnos Vale. I believe that the Prime Minister must have been misunderstood because surely you could not have wind studies designed for Argyle and meant to inform decisions relating to an airport there being done at Arnos Vale. So I believe that there was some misunderstanding of what the Prime Minister said. This has to be corrected and we need to be informed about these studies.

Those who know Argyle would be quite aware that the wind factor is a real one. Along with this is sea blast, something that cannot be easily dismissed. Then there is property acquisition. What is the estimated cost of property acquisition which is going to be a major issue given developments that have taken place in that area over the years. Of course the cost of the airport is also going to feature highly, but at this stage it is going to be difficult to state a precise figure given a number of outstanding matters that seem not to have yet been addressed.

A new and urgent factor is the future of the Windward Highway which is going to pass through Argyle. Does this mean that it would have to be redirected? Obviously we have gone past the bamboo barrier that we had to use at Arnos Vale. Given the fact that the highway is already being constructed this is an urgent matter and particularly so because any redirection is going to involve a cost. I am sure these things have been looked at for any decision about such a project as the airport, would have had to take all of these things into account. One therefore expects that the part of the road going through Argyle would have to be stopped. Failing to do this, means, that the design and precise location of the airport would have to take into account the existence of a highway at Argyle. Additionally, have international or regional aviation authorities who regulate air traffic been brought into the picture? Maybe another question that should be put on the table has to do with the possibility of future expansion. Is there going to be room at Argyle for airport expansion? We always have to look at the future. This is brought out clearly by the fact that we have tremendous difficulty widening our roads because this possibility was not adequately taken into account before. I presume that there are regulations in existence concerning the distance homes or buildings should be constructed in relation to the streets but these for many reasons have never been followed.

I firmly believe that our people need to be taken into confidence and that national discussions should take place. We must make sure we are on firm ground. Maybe, too, the consultants’ report on Argyle and the possibility of an airport there should be made widely available. In any study undertaken to inform a project one expects to find pros and cons. It is up to the government and people to weigh these issues and make final decisions, taking all into account. I am not in favour of the plan to extend Arnos Vale. The major factor working against this appears to be that of wind direction so that there are always going to be limitations and down the road we will still be talking about a new airport site.

Carnival

I heard a news release Wednesday morning to the effect that the Minister of Culture on Carnival Tuesday criticised unpatriotic Vincentians for saying negative things about Carnival. Come on, all of us want to see Carnival develop, since it is our major festival and brings in, I believe, a lot of money to the country. There is no doubt, too, that we have some of the best mass men/women in the region. We love our carnival and many of us make tremendous sacrifices to be part of it. One therefore should not interpret any kind of criticism in that manner. Why are we afraid of constructive criticism, raised with no sort of malice but with the best interest of the country at heart?

People, including returning Vincentians, raised concerns about this year’s Carnival. Rain undoubtedly created some problems but I maintain that we need to rethink the festival, looking at the shows, the kind and number of shows and the organisation of these shows. We have to ensure, for instance, that no show goes beyond three hours. One has to take into account the many patrons sitting in the pavilions for these long periods and also the presence of the international press. How do we correct deficiencies in anything? Certainly not by keeping quiet! We should raise issues and concerns in a frank and honest way and then take things from there. Don’t let the matter of patriotism become an issue for it is not in question. We have, however, to grow up and be honest with ourselves.

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