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International airport and national development

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The arrival of the vessel Inagua Espana from Coco Solo Panama, at the Campden Park Container Port on 19th May, 2008 with equipment to begin the construction of our international airport at Argyle will go down in the history of this blessed island as a defining moment in our relentless pursuit as a people to advance and champion the causes which will one day lead to sustainable development.{{more}}

The 21st Century is one that will be characterised by competition. It is clear, therefore, that it will be a Century dominated by those with advanced technological capacity, high productivity, modern and efficient transport and communication infrastructure and, above all highly skilled manpower imbued with initiative. If we are to be active participants in the global developments of the twenty-first century we must, as a Nation, find ways of improving and strengthening ourselves in all these areas. The construction of an international airport on mainland St Vincent is therefore a step in the right direction.

The significance of the moment however extends way beyond the fact that an international airport will assist greatly in reducing the intense hassle involved in traveling, or the increase in direct returns expected in the tourism sector, or even the envisaged boost in trade. What can be plausibly recommended as being more to us, is that as a people, attaining the task ahead of finally constructing an international airport will make us prove to ourselves that there is no task too big for us to overcome; that there are no challenges capable of defying our resilience; and there are no battles through which we cannot persevere to the complete ends of success.

Although the tangible profits to be derived from an international airport will be interestingly quantified in money terms at the end of every year, as a people we should seek to appreciate this quest even further, since a central return quantified not in money terms resides in the level of courageousness, gallantry, and heroism involved in attempting a project of this magnitude amidst discouragements from detractors, and a barrage of uncertainties experienced not only locally but also globally. In the long run, the accomplishment of an international airport is a triumph for us as a people. The success of this project must therefore be driven by the strong and fearless among us for the benefit of all, with the hopeful result that the weak in spirit would be encouraged.

Today, we are in the process of mapping a course which will further cement the gains of our past nation builders, and at the same time positively strengthen the chords of our future economic interdependency regionally and internationally. Clearly, this is an expression of vision and foresight. It is in this light that a call can legitimately be made to the body of patriotic Vincentians who intend to become actively involved in charting the destiny of our people, and our region, and the building of a modern Vincentian society to feel both chastened and challenged at the paste at which we must move in order to compensate for any lapses in our past development. In this regard, one can aptly affirm that an international airport on mainland St. Vincent is long overdue. Nevertheless, our gaze must be fixed on achieving future positive successes whilst maintaining an avoidance of a constant obsession with the negative past.

As we build we must also be reminded of the need to foster a renewed sense of hope. The challenges that we face as a people are not static. Growth and development is never unaccompanied by challenges. The solution however lies in the development of the capacity of our people to ensure that we can effectively and efficiently govern our lives and the future of this our blessed nation. Human empowerment is therefore our focus.

Our hope and faith in ourselves must be both refreshed and renewed when we see the many strides made thus far towards the construction of our own international airport, thus making our nation more accessible to regional and international markets in areas of manufacturing, tourism and agriculture. The Canouan airport extension and upgrade project to a Jet Airport, completed at an estimated cost of EC $58 million, is not inappropriately placed in this context as we look towards a general hope of receiving greater returns from tourism in the Grenadines.

At this stage of our development a call for us to unite in our efforts is fitting, for the task ahead will be far more difficult if we assist in heightening the mountain over which we attempt to climb. It is commendable that our country has been able to not only source, but also to ship thirteen of the forty-two pieces of heavy duty equipment needed for the first phase of the runway construction. At this stage one can only extend blessings on a project which is now much closer to home whilst being reminded that determination and discipline in planning and implementation is the key to success.

Saboto Caesar is a lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.

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