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Argyle airport project could bankrupt SVG – Dr. Friday


The international airport underway at Argyle has the potential to bankrupt St.Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

This was expressed by Dr. Godwin Friday, Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, on Tuesday, January 25, as he made his budget presentation at the House of Assembly.

“It is not just an election promise, it is a major infrastructural project which has serious implications for resource allocation in this country; for debt servicing well into the future after we have past from this stage.

“It has the potential to bankrupt this country. That is not an exaggeration,” said Friday, adding the Opposition has always expressed concern about project’s financing. He said if efforts are not made to get the area of financing right, the country will be faced with serious problems.

Friday said financing the airport concerns him because the major contributor is Venezuela, which has already provided US$50 million at an interest rate of 2 to 2.5 percent and the project has not reached “halfway as yet”.

“If our major contributor has already made its commitment, that is fifty million dollars from Venezuela, and we’re not halfway there yet, the question is, where is the remainder of the funding going to come from?” asked Friday.

Friday stated that the country cannot build the Argyle International Airport simply by borrowing.

“We can’t afford to service that kind of debt,” he stressed, adding that there has to be a major grant component to finance the project or a partnership with an investor who is willing to put forward the money.

He said that he hated “to be the bearer of bad tidings”, but having visited the airport’s site, he cannot see how the project can meet the completion date set for the end of 2012.

“I don’t see, Prime Minister, how that is a realistic objective; not even close,” said Friday.

He said the issue of financing the airport is a serious concern.

Friday noted that the Wind Study is also a matter of concern for him.

“I find it somewhat disconcerting to say the least that we are building the airport while we are conducting the Wind Study. If somebody told me that the land upon which I was going to put my house they may have some concerns about it because it might be unstable, do you think I would say to the builder “go ahead and start the foundation and pour the concrete while the engineer tests the soil to see if it can sustain it”?” asked Friday.

Friday said such action is neither bold nor visionary; “that is blind and reckless.”

On this note, Prime Minister Dr.Gonsalves stood and told the House that in 2011, members of Parliament should not be repeating such inaccuracies.

“The matter has been canvassed over and over again. …The studies pointed out that if there is a wind factor in excess of a particular level and ICAO has the guidelines, what you would need would be a crosswind runway for the small planes which ply with the Grenadines, and the cost of that is less than half of one percent of the overall cost and, therefore, manageable,” said Gonsalves.

He said the four years of wind studies that have been carried out at Argyle and at E.T. Joshua airport have produced data that show that the wind is not near to the prohibited level.

Friday responded: “Time will tell.” (HN)