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AIA project too big for traditional funding agencies

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Three major international funding agencies did not have the vision to see how St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) intended to construct the Argyle International Airport (AIA), which was opened last Tuesday.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Govsalves expressed this opinion last Tuesday, while delivering the feature address at the airport’s opening ceremony.

“I went for money to the Caribbean Development Bank. I went to the European Union, I went to the World Bank, traditional sources. They listened to me, but one got the feeling that when I turned my back, they were muttering behind my back, saying ‘This is a crazy man’.

“That’s why I ain’t get any money from them. This thing was too big, with too large an imagination for the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Union.”

Gonsalves said these agencies help SVG to build bridges, schools and sewerage systems, but not the Argyle International Airport.

“Because here, we had to move four mountains, we had to fill four valleys, we had to span a stream and a river; we had to move 134 middle income houses, and cause them to be built elsewhere. We had to move a church, we had to move a cemetery, and that was for starters, that was only to get the land flat.”

The AIA project, which was built at a cost of EC$700 million, was financed with grant funding from Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Austria, Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Libya; technical assistance from Cuba and Mexico; donations from Vincentians; grants and loans from the Caribbean Development Fund. Other loans were facilitated through Export Credit Guarantees from State agencies in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The remaining debt on the airport is $400 million.

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