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Give the airport full support


The logic underpinning the decision to construct an international airport here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is so compelling that not even the Opposition should be against such a project.

In the first place it can be no coincidence that Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the only countries without such an airport, were for a long time the poorest in the OECS.{{more}}

Secondly, we have traditionally existed by exporting agricultural products to protected markets in the metropolitan countries.

The rise of free trade means that that position is no longer

tenable. We therefore must switch to services, in particular tourism. But how can tourism be developed without proper air access.

Vincentians returning home who have to spend half a day in Barbados waiting for an onward connection will readily appreciate this point.

Having decided to build an international airport, the next issue is where should it be located. The topography of St. Vincent is such that we are not exactly spoilt for choice of sites. It all boiled down to Kitchen or Argyle. Kitchen is the more expensive site. Moreover, use of Kitchen would mean the loss of one of the best tourist sites on mainland St. Vincent.

So it is Argyle by a wide margin!

Then there is the question of financing. The airport will cost EC$450 million. St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Public Debt now stands at $884 million which is 80 percent of GDP. This is the second smallest among independent OECS countries but is still more than the recommended 60 percent. To fund the airport purely by borrowing would increase the percentage to 120. This is clearly not on.

The Government has therefore divided the project into three components; land acquisition, earthworks and the rest. Land acquisition is to be funded by sales of government land including the disposal of what will be the old airport at Arnos Vale.

The Cubans and Venezuelans are expected to help with the earthworks. Assistance is anticipated from Taiwan, Trinidad, Canada and Mexico with the rest.

Some will say that trying to do it in this way is too much of a long shot. What is the alternative? To sit down and moan? This would be defeatist. We all know that our Prime Minister is staunchly opposed to “learned helplessness”. In fact he frequently uses the term to deride his more faint-hearted contemporaries.

The Government deserves to succeed and we should all give it our full support in this matter.