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The International airport and sacrifice

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Fri, Jan 27. 2012

Editor: In his column in the Weekend Searchlight of Friday, January 20, 2012, Dr. Adrian Fraser, in critiquing a published letter by a Toronto-based Vincentian Elma Gabriel, delivered himself of the following statement:{{more}}

“I am not sure that she [Elma Gabriel] understands the kinds of sacrifices the people of this country are called upon to make to ensure the establishment of an International Airport”.

This is the classic “disguised” or “underhand” opposition by NDP-types to the construction of the Argyle International Airport. The full-throated blast against the international airport, in this regard, as articulated by the likes of Arnhim Eustace, Godwin Friday, St. Clair Leacock and Linton Lewis, is that the international airport is draining the central government of money and thus placing hardships/sacrifices upon the people.

So, let us pose the question: thus far, over the past three years and four months of construction, how much money has the Central Government itself contributed to the international airport project? The answer as provided by the Prime Minister in his recent Budget Speech is, EC $48.5 million.

On page 58 of the Prime Minister’s Budget Speech, a breakdown of this EC$48.5 million is given as follows: EC $13.5 million from the first ALBA loan; EC$15 million from the second ALBA Loan; and EC $20 million from the sale of 51-percent share of the National Commercial Bank (NCB). It is to be noted that the ALBA Loans have an extremely high grant component in that the interest rate is 2 percent over 22 years.

It is to be further noted that the ALBA loans were made by the Lender (Venezuela) to be applied, in part, to the airport’s construction. The money from the NCB sale is, in a sense, an unanticipated windfall. So, where is the drain from the Central Government?

It is true that the Government and People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are contributing financially to the construction of the international airport. After all, it has a price-tag of EC $652 million. And it is to our nation’s enormous benefit that the international airport is being constructed. Other nations are helping us mightily, but St. Vincent and the Grenadines must also chip in. Thus far, the ULP government is succeeding in building the airport very sensibly, and with minimal burden to our Treasury. Therein lies the genius of the financing arrangements.

So, let us have the argument frontally of the airport’s financing, its costs, and benefits. Let us not have ill-informed, underhand, covert, or risible comments by NDP elites who are out-of-step with the nation, at home and abroad, on the airport’s construction. Incidentally, the NDP avoided the subject of the airport “like the plague” in the recent Budget Debates.

By the way, Dr. Fraser can read the detailed presentation of the Prime Minister on the international airport at pages 52 to 61, inclusive, of his Budget Speech. As the Prime Minister says: “Let us seek truth from facts; and let the real world validate the truth”.

Hans King

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