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Look at new airport from national viewpoint

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Fri, Oct 17, 2014

Editor: There has been much discussion, albeit in most cases politically, about the Argyle international airport. Let us for awhile think as Vincentians, regardless to our political persuasion, about the Argyle international airport.{{more}}

I am certain that most Vincentians, both at home and abroad, would agree that there is a need for an international airport. The question is, however, can we afford such an airport now, considering that almost all the countries in the Caribbean have an international airport. It must be borne in mind that many of those countries that have an international airport are more advanced than us economically. We should have had such an airport long, long time ago, when it would have been easier to build such an airport, because it would have been cheaper and monies were more available then. Be that as it may, we are now in the process of such a completion of an international airport. Thus, it would be foolish of any politician to abandon such a project. It must therefore be completed and operational.

We know that it would take some years for it to cover its cost and to make even with the operational cost. Thus it may require continuation of monies from central government for a period of time to operate this airport. However, we have to look beyond the cost involved in building it and also to operate it and see the benefits that can be derived from such an investment.

Due to the limited space, I would only briefly mention some important benefits that can be had from such a project, as well as some challenges that will be faced as a result of such a project. Many foreign investors may be reluctant to invest in this country, because we don’t have an international airport. However, when it becomes operational, investors can be attracted to come to our shores to invest since they know that their products can be flown back and forth almost instantly and that travelling from an international destination would be less hassle since they can travel on one airline, even if they have to in transit. So, with foreign investors, if the incentives are right, it can create more employment for this country. It can also bring in more foreign cash from trade and also the Government would be able to collect more taxes from goods and services. This would result in an increase in the monies available.

Agricultural products and fish can be shipped the same day to countries abroad, thus creating more money for farmers and can attract young people into the business of buying and selling these items. It would reduce the dependency on government hand-outs and make persons more self-employed, thus empowering them to be their own boss. Manufacturing can be increased since there would be easier access to goods leaving and coming to and from St vincent the same day.

It is important that the tourism authority market SVG as a tourist destination. If they do their work effectively, then rather than visitors stay over at other destinations in the Caribbean, they can make SVG the destination. This can result in an increase in stay-over visitors, where the hotels will benefit, the taxis would benefit and of course the Government would benefit from airport and other taxes.

Of course, there is more that can be said. But like everything, there is always another side. If proper work is not done in marketing, then we would not receive much traffic and this would be a setback. Of course there is the cost that is involved. Persons argue that because of the cost of building it, it sets back other areas of development where monies could have been spent. However, some sacrifice has to be made. The question is, “is it a worthwhile sacrifice?”

Of course, with so many other countries already with their own international airport, would we be able to effectively attract airlines to fly in our direction? It sure would be nice if SVG could be one of the many hubs in the Caribbean. This would definitely increase the traffic to our airport and thus increase the revenue. Would this country be saddled with a debt incurred from the airport that will take many many years to pay back and as a result will affect the economy negatively? Would it be a white elephant where there is not much activity going on there? We know the possibility exists that it will take some years to get established in the sense that many airlines would be using the airport.

Whatever is our take on the airport, let us as Vincentians put aside our politics for once and look at it from a national point of view. Of course, there is more than can be said, but let us leave it at that. May God bless this nation SVG.

Kennard King

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