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Letter: The print media's take on the opening of Argyle International Airport
Published on February 17, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The February 14, 2017, (Valentine’s Day) opening of Argyle International Airport (AIA) featuring the arrival of the same regional carriers that have always served E. T. Joshua International Airport at Arnos Vale, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), plus up to four charters from New York, Toronto, and Cuba has stirred print media editorial interest from two traditional supporters of the airport’s construction.

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In its Friday, January 27, 2017 staff editorial, the Vincentian newspaper opined that:

“The [Argyle] international airport promises to position this country as a truly competitive tourist market.”

Not a shred of evidence supporting this “promise” is offered except that “aviation connects the world” and that the global aviation industry supported, “…1.7 million jobs and accounted for $37 billion in GDP in small island states around the world.”

In the field of Western logic, a mode of reasoning antithetical to our African-based, pre-rational system of argumentation, this is called the “ecological fallacy,” an interpretive error that assumes there is no difference between a whole class of items and individual members of that class. In this case, the Vincentian assumes what is true of the entire global aviation industry must be true of each its individual airports.

The Vincentian wants us to believe that because global aviation generally has earned a lot of money and secured a lot of jobs for many small island states around the world, it is bound to do so for St Vincent Island (SVI) as well. This is equivalent to saying that because a given government is corrupt – not this one, of course -- so must everyone who is part of it.

A rhetorical error also informs the word “promises” which is based on a false appeal to emotion called “wishful thinking” (suggesting a claim is true because you strongly hope it is true).

The newspaper also has little understanding of the term “truly competitive” which they conflate with “guaranteeing economic growth.” What could be “truly competitive” about a rush to the cutthroat market bottom in opening an international airport in a destination with so few premier tourist features in a tropical region awash with truly first-class attractions on nearby islands easily accessed via four underused international airports (Canouan, Barbados, St Lucia, and Grenada)? The Vincentian needs to understand, when the supply of services goes up in the absence of growing demand, prices and/or profits are bound to fall.

The official Vincentian position was underscored by its longest-serving editorial writer, Dr Kenneth John, who proclaimed in his February 3, 2017, column, “The fact is that we need such an airport [AIA], as everybody knows…,” committing two logical fallacies – “appeal to self-evident truth” and “argumentum ad populum” -- with these few words.

Similar criticisms can be leveled against a second local newspaper. In its Friday, January 6, 2017, staff editorial, Searchlight agreed with the government position that, “… the imminent opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) will be of significant benefit [another example of wishful thinking] to the Vincentian economy” but only if, “… all Vincentians, both home and abroad, engage their imagination and intellect to create and exploit opportunities in a global economy of which we form just a tiny percentage. Our new airport would surely lock us in more firmly to the international economy [more wishful thinking].”

These high sounding and patriotic words, reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s famous statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” in his 1961 presidential inauguration speech, are both patriarchal and arrogant: our masters in government have “given” us an airport over which we never had a say but now we, its servants, are responsible for making it a success.

As Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Milton Friedman, wrote of the Kennedy phrase:

“To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not over and above them…. The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom?” … And he will accompany this question with another: “How can we keep the government we create from becoming a ‘Frankenstein’ that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect”” (Capitalism and Freedom)?

These words apply more strongly to politically-tribalized SVG in 2017 than to the United States where they were published in 1962, as the total politicization of the airport project from start to finish by a ruling regime that more than any before has erased the distinction between party and government clearly shows.

Louis XIV of France is reputed to have proclaimed, “L'Etat, c'est moi” (“I am the State”). In little SVG, the State is the Unity Labour Party (ULP). Since both the ULP and all branches of government are ruled over with an iron fist by the Prime Minister, this means that “L'Etat, c'est le Comarade.”

Among the many signs proving this is how any opposition to or criticism of the ULP/State conceived, built, and operated AIA is deemed not only unpatriotic but as a treasonous act demanding state punishment. As one party fanatic with the pen name “Dave from Toronto,” parroting denunciations by many others before and since, wrote responding to my questioning of airlifting produce overseas:

“… you hate SVG so much…. I doubt that you are a real vincy…. Maybe, the Ministry of National Security might want to keep an eye on you. I’m sure there is some provisions for treasonous writing...”.

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Is free speech now a treasonous offence in little St Vincent?

Like “Dave from Toronto”, the Searchlight editorial implies that Vincentians, both at home and abroad, who refuse to “… engage their imagination and intellect to create and exploit opportunities in a global economy ….” would be responsible for the failure of AIA to achieve its potential. This view is wrongheaded not only for repudiating Friedman’s notion of personal freedom in a democracy but because it ignores the countless efforts of generations of Vincentians, both here and in the diaspora, to invest resources in their homeland, sometimes with great success but more often with abject failure.

This not only reflects the bankruptcy of most startup businesses around the world but the paucity of viable investment opportunities in a country that “forms just a tiny percentage” of the world’s population, size, and productivity, the eventual result being that, “Our new airport would surely lock us in more firmly” in a debtor’s prison of no escape.

This is because underpinning both the Searchlight and Vincentian editorial positions is that SVI has great economic potential that AIA is bound to unleash, a baseless assumption contradicted by an absence of valuable exportable resources and sluggish and uneven growth since the decline of sugar cane revenues in the mid-19th century.

If we have so much potential for development, why have so many of our people had to flee overseas to better themselves wherever and whenever migration opportunities have been available?

If we have so much potential for development, why are we never able to actualize it save for short periods of time?

If we have so much potential for development, why are we still a have-not, hand-to-mouth country?

If we have so much potential for development, why do so many of the foreign investors turn out to be crooks and scamps?

***

This is the 46th in a series of essays on the folly of having built Argyle International Airport.

My other AIA essays are listed below:

1. Get ready for a November election in St Vincent and the Grenadines! But which November?
2. Lessons for Argyle International Airport from Canada's Montreal-Mirabel International Airport
3. Lessons for Argyle International Airport from the cruise ship industry
4. Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle International Airport in St Vincent
5. Lessons from Trinidad and Tobago for Argyle International Airport
6. The dark side of tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
7. Why Argyle won't fly: Lessons from Dominica
8. Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
9. Airport envy Vincie-style
10. Fully realising our country's tourism potential
11. Airport without a cause
12. The unnatural place for an international airport
13. The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
14. False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
15. Airport politics and betrayal Vincie-style
16. Phony airport completion election promises, Vincie-style
17. Is Argyle International Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us’?
18. Has the cat got your tongue, prime minister?
19. More proof that Argyle won't fly
20. Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
21. The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
22. The world's four most amazing abandoned airports
23. Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
24. Argyle Airport amateur hour
25. St Vincent's place in the world of travel
26. Investing in St Vincent's tourism industry
27. The Argyle Airport Prophecy: What the numbers say
28. Did the IMF drink the Comrade's Kool-Aid?
29. Why Qatar? Why St Vincent and the Grenadines?
30. Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
31. 'If I come, you will build it': Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle International Airport
32. City lessons for Argyle International Airport
33. Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
34. No ticky, no washy - Argyle-style
35. We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
36. Hotel St Vincent 
37. Why St Vincent Island has so few tourists
38. Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
39. Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
40. St Vincent's cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
41. Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
42. Cuba's tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
43. What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
44. Not all Argyle airport critics are 'internet crazies'
45. Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle airport

C. ben-David
 
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Comments:

Allan H. F. Palmer:

C. Ben-David, well done. I think your have put a realistic twist on this situation. It is silly how these people expect that a landing strip could automatically propelled SVG into economic stability and growth. SMH!

C. ben-David:

Allan, this "silliness" its called "irrational exuberance" (Allan Greenspan) whose excesses are bound to end in failure.


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