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Letter: The SVG airport is operational - what next?
Published on March 13, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The magical thinking of build it and they will come to the Argyle International Airport (AIA) shows the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government’s total lack of a coherent policy. What is next for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) after the state sponsored red excursion? They think by building an international airport using all means necessary will guarantee economic viability for SVG.

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So I ask the question, why are there currently no direct regular commercial (not chartered) flights to and from the USA, Canada, or the UK to SVG? Didn’t the Tourism Authority CEO say American Airlines was ready to come? What’s the hold up?

Do you mean to tell the world you built an international airport with no scheduled direct commercial international flights from the USA, Canada, the UK, or for that matter anywhere outside the Caribbean region? Where are American Airlines, United, Delta, British Airways, and Air Canada? Let’s not forget some of the other airlines that were “aspirationally” to land at AIA, including Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Iberia, WestJet, Jet Blue, and Virgin Atlantic.

Such economic oddity seems to be the solution to all of the government’s problems. With arrogance they insist that the airport is the economic miracle growth pill to move SVG forward. Some years ago we were told, “We are on the cusp of an economic takeoff.”

However, they had no serious economic analysis behind this fiscal outlook. All one has to do is look at SVG’s economic growth since that pronouncement. Economic trends were highlighted by several years of negative and zero growth. During this period a ULP government minister told the nation that we had a budget for not creating jobs.

According to the latest budget projections, the ULP government will create 83 jobs in 2017. Seriously, with the airport operational in February 2017 we have only 83 total jobs projected by the ULP government for the year!

The miracle of the economic takeoff has flown right past SVG. Instead, what we have seen are high unemployment, increased taxation, and record numbers of murders in SVG. These are all signs of a depressed economy!

Is an operational AIA going to be an economic suicide pill? Has this already started? Departure taxes have increased from $40 to $100. Also the annual operating costs have increased from $7 million at E T Joshua to $20 or $25 million at AIA.

In 2008, in my letter entitled “And what if they lied to you?” I wrote, “Are the people and the government of SVG willing to subsidize any of the major carriers? Mind you, it is to the tune of several million dollars per year to leave established profitable routes to fly to SVG or to add one or two flights per week to SVG.

So what were the key assumptions behind the cusp of an economic takeoff viewpoint? They killed agriculture, Atlantic tuna fishing rights have been given to Taiwan, and tourism is in the doldrums. Were the key assumptions cold Ju-C and hot tri-tri cakes to the US?

Henceforward, the airport operational; what next? Maybe they are going to blow a magic conch shell or ride a magical turtle shell to economic prosperity because this airport is sure not the key to SVG’s future economic growth!

Peace and justice and get real.

Lenford O’Garro
Washington
 
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Comments:

g.b:

So I ask you, what or how do you suppose the problems you highlighted be tackled? Will JetBlue for example, simply buy or lease a jet to fly from AIA soon as AIA became operational. Should Glen Beache have ensured that American had an empty jet set aside waiting for AIA to open? So I asked again,do you have any answers for any or some of the issues you raised?

C. ben-David:

1. You are asking the wrong person to supply the answers to these questions.
The right person is one or more of the following: Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister; Cecil McKie, Minister of Tourism; and Glen Beache, CEO of the Tourism Authority.

2. The PM said that it would take a while -- at least several months -- for AIA to be up and running so even though all of the above were not telling us the truth when they said years ago that negotiations with various international airlines would very soon see the signing of agreements to fly here non-stop on a regularly scheduled basis.

3. Asking someone to give answers to questions that he or she raises for discussion or criticism does not mean they themselves must answer the questions if only because the questions may be illogical, nonsensical, or rhetorical or because the questions have no good answers.

Vinci Vin:

Pouie, my Dear Brother: Like it or not, the AIA is a REALITY! It has been constructed. We are stuck with it. It is our AIA. So what do we do next?

I read you loud and clear. Many errors and omissions were made in the planning, executing, and promoting of the AIA. Many short-sighted political remarks were made to mark the ownership of the AIA as vested in the ULP and the Gonsalves regime. Nuff actions were taken to exclude more than 50 percent of Vincentians from participating in what should have been a national quest for a noble infrastructural project.

Yet in reality, all of that was just political gamesmanship. All Vincentians are in hock (indebtedness) to pay for this airport - not just Gonsalves and ULP members. All Vincentians stand to potentially benefit from the anticipated success of the AIA. So let's stop this nonsense about "dem AIA". When you think that way, you strengthen the ULP's grasp on the misinformed rhetoric of "Gonsalves and the ULP AIA”. You endorse the nonsense uttered by a senile Vincent Beache at the opening of the airport.

Yes, we have unresolved major problems at the AIA, namely: How do we get it to succeed? How do we end the tribalism from which Ralph Gonsalves and his cronies continue to benefit? How do we promote the AIA abroad and contribute to the attraction of international carriers? How do we get Vincentians a piece of the profit from any upsurge in tourism spurred by the AIA?

I understand the thinking of Ivan O'Neal when he said that Jamaica has had a flourishing tourism sector since the 1800s, yet the majority of Jamaicans are in dire poverty. The profits from the Jamaican tourism sector is siphoned off by the foreign operators. But how can we reclaim SVG to insure that ordinary Vincentians benefit from its emerging tourism sector? What can we as ordinary citizens looking in from the outside on the mis-informed, uneducated decisions made by the ULP regime for SVG, do to take back our country and participate in national decisions?

Let's not ask Ralph Gonsalves. He is a tired man, especially a man in bankruptcy of creative and actionable economic development ideas. He has picked all the easy or low-hanging fruits of his political machinations. Now he is in the wilderness - an uncharted ocean to pilot the ship of state towards a reality of sustainable economic development. But he is so hooked at feeding at the national trough, blinded by his appetite for political power, and guided by his cravings for family dynasty that he does not have the stamina to step aside until he is pushed aside. Will the AIA be his Waterloo? Let Ralph Gonsalves reconcile his own problems.

In the meantime, let all Vincentians at home and abroad get on board with the promotion of SVG as a tourism destination, a wedding destination, an investment destination. When we become successful in doing those things, we will suck the wind out of the sails of the ULP and Ralph Gonsalves. We will have the basis for ushering in economic and political change in SVG. We will be less divided as a nation. We will put the AIA to good use. And we will indeed see a clear future for our children and grand-children in Hairouna.

What do you say, my Vincy brother? Do we march forward? Or do we continue to bury our heads in the political morass that serves the ULP?

Vinci Vin

Vinciman:

Why waste any decent words on Lenford O'Garro! Anyone who does that will do it to his or her own peril, and especially concerning the Argyle International Airport (AIA). It goes for C.ben-David also.

Didn’t anyone pay attention to O’Garro way back in 2008 when he spoke these words, “Since you have failed to understand Mr Eustace and my point about the cost of the airport, let me simplify it even more for you..." and furthermore, "Do we need an international airport? The answer is No, because we cannot afford it.” Case closed!

Now that the NDP has catapulted over to the Argyle side somewhat half-assedly, and NDP Vice-man St Clair Leacock says “...it will be a success”. For Lenford, the only way forward for AIA and out of this ULP economic stranglehold, is to “Gey rid ah dem”, and elect the NDP, ask anybody!

Now that AIA is a reality, and there is no turning back, the only government that can conduct business with the speed of a lightning bolt, and solicit airlines like Jet Blue, Delta, British Airways, and American etc to fly to Argyle in a jiffy, is the NDP, ask Lenford!

According to Lenford, “this airport is sure not the key to SVG’s future economic growth”! Only the NDP is the key! Only the NDP has the “key”! I rest my case Lenford O'Garro Washington.

Next up is "The Case of the Slippery Petition", ask Lenford!...Chewps!


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