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Letter: Explaining Argyle airport: A clash of axioms
Published on August 31, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir;

I concluded my last essay (see essay number 59 below) with the observation that although seemingly unassailable truths (axioms) like “St Vincent Island [SVI] has lots of potential” cannot be directly attacked because this would subvert their definition as self-evident verities, their corollaries (i.e., results that seem to naturally follow from them may still be challenged on theoretical and empirical grounds.

Unlike the Honourable Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ belief that Argyle International Airport (AIA) is necessary to meet our developmental potential based on the axiom-rooted corollary (direct or natural consequence of the axiom) that the mainland has lots of tourism potential, my counter-corollary logically and factually follows from my axiom.

I further contend that both my foundational assumption (axiom) and corollary, both rooted in support for the capitalistic economic system also embraced by Dr. Gonsalves, better explain our current economic situation, especially the implications and complications of having constructed AIA:

AXIOM: The mainland of St Vincent lost most of what little potential it had long ago.

COROLLARY: The construction of an international airport would not boast our mainland tourism potential (because we have so little tourism potential on the big island).

My axiom underpins our current economic condition as verified by our recent national ascendancy to lower middle-income status. Despite the widespread denial or ignorance of our past – yet another consequence of our retrogressive “education revolution” -- there is little need to document the reason for this placement by detailing our easily discoverable economic history from first British settlement in 1763 to the present, except to note that:

(1) our only period of real prosperity (most of whose profits went overseas) was based on large-scale sugar production over a several decades between the late 18th and early 19th century during the heinous slavery era;

(2) plantation-based export agriculture in which one export crop was replaced by a new or old one is long gone and could never be productively revived as much for political reasons (the fragmentation of the estates rooted in an economically dubious but voter-friendly policy of “land for the landless” and the near disappearance of preferential trade tariffs and quotas) as economic ones (even our former largest estates could never again be economical because of their tiny size by global mega-farm standards). The recent re-introduction of cocoa and coffee production, as welcome as it is from a small-scale job creation perspective, will do little to significantly raise our national level of prosperity;

(3) our lack of valuable natural resources like oil, gas, or precious minerals, economies of scale – our small land mass, tiny population of producers and consumers, and low level of labour saving mechanization – have always constrained our sustained development;

(4) our often mentioned low worker and mechanical productivity in both the public and private sectors, together with a combined unemployment and underemployment rate of over 40 percent, have proven intractable;

(5) the annual seven-fold value of imports over exports constantly drains our economy of needed revenue;

(6) the age-old economic strategy called emigration – the single best example of our lack of economic potential – as a response to unemployment, low wages, and few business opportunities will always be a double-edged sword robbing us of our best and brightest while sustaining our lower middle-income economic status through the remittance of money and barrels of food and clothing from those abroad together with investments, including the many unsuccessful ones that still bring in much needed foreign exchange, from those who have returned home; and

(7) unsustainable government spending, dependence on external grants, and reckless borrowing from various public and private bodies at home and abroad have resulted in an $EC 1.7 billion debt and an 80 percent debt to GDP ratio (an increase from 58 percent in 2001), features guaranteeing a continuation of the economic status quo, if not a fall down or off the economic ladder, when the grants dry up and the loans cannot be repaid, eventually putting us on heavy manners Greek-style and a quick drop back to our habitual lower income status.

The assumption that “we have lots of potential” does not support the sum total of these facts and interpretations.

As for my corollary versus the prime minister’s corollary that “Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport,” I simply point to the content of my previous essays which, taken together, suggest that with the possible exception a few thousand more annual holiday visitors over the next several years – a number hardly sufficient to balance the costs of building and operating AIA -- our meagre mainland tourism potential was realized decades ago.

Of course, there are other axioms rooted in other theoretical frameworks (paradigms), including the thoroughly discredited Marxist-Leninist one favoured by Jomo Thomas, arguably the most dangerous radical in the land who our increasingly capitalism-loving prime minister cunningly harnessed in the Speaker’s high chair in the House of Assembly where he could not lambaste government tourism policy (such as the low pay and poor working conditions of those employed in the hospitality sector, racial and class segregation in Canouan, and the sale of lands to foreigners at Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope that other misguided radicals and the hapless NDP party establishment also oppose) while still allowing him to engage in inconsequential rebellious preaching to the masses in his weekly column in the oldest but least popular newspaper in the land:

“We are in a bind… Where must we go? Where can we go? …. You think you know how [to empower the people for a better way of life]? Deliver. Make people’s lives better” (The Vincentian newspaper, October 7, 2016).

Jomo Thomas, as Red as they come … but not enough to make any difference

Though he comes close to supporting my axiom with these despondent words (and closer still with what he reveals in one of my later essays), Thomas’ prescription for healing what afflicts us is to parrot the facile socialist slogan, “Genuine Independence, People’s Ownership and Control,” that even our formerly radical prime minister long abandoned and which, if acted upon from his so-called “progressive” perspective, would surely lead us down the pauperizing totalitarian path to the former Soviet Union, Maoist-era China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela.

But there is more to this clash of paradigms and axioms than castigating loopy leftists like Comrade Jomo or dredging up what I have already pointed out surely argumentum ad infinitum to mainly deaf ears and addled minds in previous essays to counter the regnant argumentum ad populum.

In mathematics, the sciences, and logic, the simplest and most elegant explanation that accounts for all the facts is always preferred to those that don’t which is why my axiom and corollary better explain the facts surrounding AIA than does the mainstream neo-liberal one presented by Dr Gonsalves or the Marxist one offered by Jomo Thomas.
I examine why this is so in my next essay.


This is the 60th in a series of essays on the AIA folly. 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
46. The print media's take on the opening of Argyle International Airport
47. Our Argyle International Airport 'veritable miracle'
48. The Argyle airport 'poppy show' opening
49. St Vincent's 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
50. Going forward or moonwalking? Lessons for Argyle International Airport
51. The visible hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
52. St Vincent Island doesn't need any more hotel rooms
53. Lessons from St Lucia and Grenada for Argyle International Airport
54. Is Air Canada also a 'huge game-changer' for Argyle International Airport?
55. St Vincent's mainland tourist attractions
56. How St Vincent's tourist attractions stack up: Lessons for Argyle Airport
57. Lessons from Guyana for Argyle International Airport
58. The world's best tourist islands: Lessons for Argyle International Airport
59. Explaining Argyle airport on St Vincent Island

C. ben-David
Reads : 3871

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