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The Argyle International Airport


When Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves delivers his 2016 Budget Address, besides the usual deep interest in fiscal matters, particularly revenue measures, ears will be cocked to hear information related to the Argyle International Airport (AIA). This must surely be the last Budget before the long-anticipated opening and operationalisation of the new airport, hence some conclusive information will be expected.{{more}}

Whereas before, discussion on the AIA tended to revolve around construction and financing, it is time for the focus to shift to issues relating to the operation of the airport and its role in propelling the promised economic take-off.

For a start, Vincentians expect that information will be divulged concerning the management of the airport. It goes without saying that operating an international airport is a far different kettle of fish than running the local airports that we currently possess. There is certainly a shortage of experience and expertise locally in this area, so it is natural to expect that some international and/or regional partnership will be sought. The government itself has on occasion broadly hinted in this direction, including raising the possibility of some arrangement with entities in the Far East. It is time to be brought up to date on this.

Staffing of the airport is another critical issue including relevant training. It is critical in recruiting suitable staff that we avoid the temptation, which always plagues governments, to load up with political riders, a sure road to ending up with square pegs in round holes.

One obvious economic possibility emanating from having an international airport is tourism. Our country has many attractions, but we have not been able to fully maximize the benefits which could be derived because of limitations in accessing this country by air. It has been revealed that at present negotiations are proceeding with a number of investors and international airlines. If successful, these will open far greater opportunities to attract visitors and investment in the hospitality industry as a result. In particular, diversifying the tourism product and the sources from which tourists come will be important.

Another critical area for economic take-off which the AIA can propel is that of the marketing of our agricultural products. Already the Minister of Agriculture has been speaking on this issue. This week at a press conference, he spoke of invitations to Vincentians here and in the diaspora to take the initiative and to position themselves to take advantage of the possibilities.

This relates not only to agriculture but to investments in areas in which the AIA provides opportunities. The local private sector needs to be proactive in this regard and the State in turn, must provide the required incentives to induce local, and foreign investments. If Vincentians are sluggish in aggressively pursuing the opportunities, then we may well live to regret it.

For these and a host of other reasons, the 2016 Budget pronouncements on the AIA will be eagerly anticipated. We have been long and patient in waiting, it is now time for us to take up our beds and walk.