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Dr. Gonsalves says recent trips ‘extremely successful’

Dr. Gonsalves says recent trips ‘extremely successful’


Skepticism fueled by anti-Government propaganda permeated throughout St.Vincent and the Grenadines last September when President Chen Shui-Bian of the Republic of China on Taiwan in his maiden visit here, unable at the time to precisely state what help his country could have offered our small island state with the construction of the international airport at Argyle, only vaguely committed his country’s support to the cause.{{more}}

Nine months later, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is an elated man; describing his recent trips to the Republic of China on Taiwan and Malaysia from June 5-13 as “extremely successful”.

Among the central achievements announced at a press conference on Friday, June 16, was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the governments of the Republic of China on Taiwan and St.Vincent and the Grenadines concerning the international airport at Argyle.

The memorandum states that the Asian country agrees to provide a grant of US$15 million and make available a soft loan of US$10 million to the government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines for building the roads, support systems, terminal building and control tower of the Argyle International Airport. The memorandum states: “Any request for additional assistance for the project will be afforded favourable consideration in further discussions.”

In addition to the US$25 million, the Prime Minister was able to allocate from the Taiwanese Government a further US$10 million in grant which the government will use over a five-year period to finance the Youth Empowerment Service (YES), the construction of remaining Learning Resource Centres, and other kinds of activities important to the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

“I don’t think anybody could say frankly speaking that is not substantial assistance,” the Prime Minister remarked.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said very importantly there is a co-prosperity initiative which was launched in September 2005 by President Chen with his government and private sector. While in Taiwan Dr. Gonsalves said discussions were also held with the Council for Economic Planning and Development from the Executive YUAN.This body will be sending out a team to look at areas of investment in Tourism, yacht repairs/building of yachts and information technology.

“The Taiwan visit is extremely successful because if you get US$35 million, plus the other technical assistance and the equipment…it is more than worth the while in going to Taipei,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

To his critics who said he should not have gone to Taiwan because of the existing internal political difficulties with President Chen and his party in government, Dr.Gonsalves responded: “If that was the case nobody should go to United Kingdom where Prime Minister Blair is having some political difficulties, nobody should go to the United States or to anywhere for that matter.

“…I don’t turn my back on my friends at the first sign of any difficulty. I have never been a fair weather friend,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

While in Malaysia, Prime Minister Gonsalves received confirmation of the 105 scholarships that were promised by the Petro Foundation and the Limkokwing University. Another area of confirmation relates to training of Vincentian public servants, which will be provided by the Malaysian Government.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi upon Dr. Gonsalves’ request has agreed to provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Works. Malaysian assistance will also be given to our local coconut industry. A mission will be sent to Malaysia to see what can be learnt from the Malaysia coconut industry.

Assistance with the setting up of College of Creative Technology and Global Tourism in conjunction with Limkokwing University, the Malaysian private Sector and facilitated through the Government was also sought by Prime Minister Gonsalves. Dr. Gonsalves disclosed work should begin on this project in another six to eight months. Among the several discussions held in Malaysia was the plan to establish a regional bio-diesel project which will be piloted in Guyana.

The press conference is the first that was officiated by new Press Secretary Hans King who replaced the deceased Glenn Jackson on June 1, 2006.