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Barring unforeseen circumstances St. Vincent and the Grenadines will have an international airport by 2011, latest.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on the much-debated issue on Monday at the Methodist Church Hall during a national presentation carried live on radio and television.{{more}}

The opening ceremony was graced with many fanfares and music from the Royal St.Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Band.

And it was all smooth sailing as the packed audience listened attentively to the comprehensive address delivered by the Prime Minister on the International Airport Project at Argyle, when at 10:55 a.m., 55 minutes into his speech, the electricity went putting a damper on the much anticipated presentation that Vincentians had spent all weekend awaiting.

Upon much reflection, it brought to mind that a project of such nature is not as easy as “said and done” and will be a challenge, which was acknowledged by Dr. Gonsalves. At the same time the Unity Labour Party (ULP) headed by Dr. Gonsalves must come out victorious in the upcoming General Elections which is not too far away to get on with the project in full.

“Personally, I have been tireless in my efforts on the International Airport Project. I have spent countless man-hours on this project at home and abroad, in diverse lands. I am fully satisfied that the government’s decisions on this matter are correct and the international airport will be an operational and functional reality by 2011, at the latest,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

The report by the Prime Minister gave a complete analysis of the entire International Airport Project for St.Vincent and the Grenadines. It dealt with issues such as: ‘Why do we need an international airport?’; ‘why improve E.T. Joshua Airport if we are going to build an international airport at Argyle?’; ‘What institutional arrangements have been put in place for the international airport?’; ‘A history of airport studies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’; ‘why not Arnos Vale?’, ‘The crosswind issue at Argyle’, ‘The cost of an international airport at Argyle’, ‘Financing the international airport project’, and ‘Time lines and some practical issues’.

The International Airport Project is the most costly capital project ever in the history of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Gonsalves noted, while adding “the longer we wait to do it, the more expensive it would be”.

“Indeed, an international airport on mainland St.Vincent should have been built a long time ago. There will be no further delays. Delay here is a thief of time; and time is money. The ULP government is now in a position to proceed without further delays,” Dr.Gonsalves outlined.

The Prime Minister disclosed that the most recent estimate of the International Airport Project at Argyle provided to the Government by the international consultants known as Marshall Macklin Monaghan (MMM) puts the total cost at approximately EC$480.6 million or US$178 million.

Giving a break-down of this cost under broad headings Dr. Gonsalves said: Site acquisition will cost EC$83.7 million, Earthworks/Siteworks EC$183.8 million, Apron, Runway, Taxiway EC$41.3 million, Roads and Support Services EC$17.3 million, Terminal building and control tower EC$38.1 million, Project delivery/management EC$55.1 million and Contingency EC$61.3 million.

The international airport at Argyle is expected to consume 375 acres of land. It will have a paved runway of some 9, 000 feet in length and a runway strip width of 500 feet. Additionally, the Prime Minister proposed to build a terminal building of about 53, 820 square metres.

NBA player Adonal Foyle attended the ceremony, as well as several dignitaries including Ambassador Elizabeth Chu of the Republic of China on Taiwan, members of Cabinet, the Public Service and the general public.

At the historical presentation the Prime Minister was presented a bouquet and a cake in honour of his 59th birthday which he celebrated on Monday.