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Letter: The unnatural place for an international airport
Published on April 15, 2015 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The slow, twisting, and potholed road leading to the completion of Argyle International Airport (AIA) has been a deceptive route we have foolishly been taken down by our "smart man" prime minister. We have already built two white elephant airports, a regional facility in Bequia and an international jetport in Canouan, islands with far more tourism potential than the mainland but have learned nothing in the process, not even what a chronically underused Arnos Vale airport and Kingstown cruise ship terminal portend for AIA.

kingstown_cruise_terminal.jpg
Habitually empty Kingstown cruise ship terminal

Nor have we learned anything from the flourishing demand-driven private sector tourism industry in other Caribbean countries.

Carnival Corporation, the world's largest travel and leisure company, will welcome guests at its newly developed Amber Cove cruise ship terminal in the Dominican Republic, a tourism powerhouse if there ever was one, beginning in October 2015. The corporation financed the project on its own at a cost of US$85 million. How likely is it that any similar hospitality project, even with 100 percent government financing, would ever grace our mainland, especially when our existing cruise ship terminal is empty most of the time?

dominican_republic_beach.jpg
A typical Dominican Republic beach

Meanwhile, our neighbour, Grenada, just recorded a 19 percent increase in arrivals from 2013 to 2014, almost equally divided between cruise ship and stay-over visitors.

Our numbers in both categories have been stagnant or in decline for years.

About the only redeeming feature of our foolish and wasteful AIA project is that it may be eco-friendly. But this only highlights the amount of environmental neglect under this and previous regimes. Do we really expect tourists to sunbathe on the beach at Layou shown below?

layou_beach.jpg

Pretending to be eco-friendly began in the 1980s with the Sir James Mitchell government's seeming aversion to mass commercial tourism, neatly summarized by the slick promotional slogan, "St Vincent: The Natural Place to Be." The Mitchell government even declared the 1990s as "the decade of the environment," another empty slogan.

All this eco-tourist rhetoric only served to mask the fact that as hard as we might try we could never hope to match the number of holiday visitors to nearby Barbados or St Lucia by pretending to reject the mainstream 3S large-scale tourism model of sun, sand, and sea. Sun and sea we have in abundance but our black sand beaches have no appeal to tourists and little to our own people, most of whom have not gone to the sea in years.

But our non-3S sector is just as limited. With no lakes to boat on, no rivers to swim in, no hot sulphur springs to bathe in, and only a few remote waterfalls to shower under, all we can offer is lots of inaccessible forest land and a semi-active volcano, hardly the basis for much eco-tourist interest. Still, small-footprint tourism was beginning to take off around the world during the 1980s and seemed to offer some hope for boosting our mainland visitor numbers, so the Mitchell government jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon.

The results have been less than impressive, partly for of all the reasons I have already given in these essays (poor tourism promotion, few natural wonders that would attract large numbers of eco-tourists, relentless environmental neglect and degradation, inadequate site development and maintenance, etc.). Combined with the self-limiting nature of eco-tourism in sensitive locations -- the more footprints on the ground, the more damage to fragile forest, river, and mountain environments -- there is not much hope for large and habitat sustainable eco-tourism increases on our mainland.

St Vincent island will long be a bush-league travel destination in so many other ways as well -- a place where daytime offers little amusement, entertainment, recreation, or duty-free shopping and nightlife offers mainly ear-splitting and tuneless karaoke -- yet we pretend that we can be a major league holiday player with this foolhardy airport project.

No better example of both our inability and unwillingness to compete with regional festive offerings that appeal to tourists and locals alike was the decision in 1976 to move our traditional pre-Lenten Carnival celebration to the end of June because so many international visitors and many of our own people chose to attend the more lavish and better organized Carnival in Trinidad. Rather than working to improve our own product, we simple gave up and chose a date when there would be no other competition. This does not speak well to our motivation or ability to succeed in the competitive holiday market.

This is not to say that we don't have some excellent amateur and semi-professional singers, musicians, and ensemble groups. But with almost no clean, elegant, spacious, and well-equipped indoor and outdoor venues for them to showcase their talent and make a good living performing nightly before the thousands of young, party-loving tourists that AIA is promising to bring in, all the talent in the world matters not a twit.

There is a simple lesson here from these and other examples: when the hospitality sector repeatedly shuns the same commercial opportunities for hotel, resort, and attraction development, even after decades of rich tax and other subsidies because of stagnant visitor numbers and little tourism potential, but the prime minister stubbornly (though shrewdly) refuses to accept "not interested" for an answer and proceeds to build a bogus airport bound to end up costing at least one billion EC$, the tax-paying public should be afraid, very afraid.

But few Vincentians seem to fear the tragedy this phony show-port adventure will bring us. Even our aged faction of pseudo-intellectual left-wing activists who used to shout "tourism is whorism" now mindlessly and hypocritically proclaim that a lot a foreigners looking for a nice time the 4S way -- sun, sea, sand, and sex -- will be our economic salvation. As I and others have repeatedly said, if SVG had the tourism potential to support an international airport, it would have been built decades ago.

In another laughable statement, the CEO of our tourism authority, Glen Beache, has just declared that, "Our new Argyle International Airport is going to transform the tourism industry, making SVG one of the most sought-after and ‘green’ destinations in the eastern Caribbean”, implying that two megawatts of solar-generated electricity would be sufficient to bring in thousands of new visitors to gaze in awe at our bargain basement airport.

Ironically, our declining agricultural sector, which has also been full of ups and downs since the late start of large-scale sugar plantation agriculture in the last decades of the 18th century, still has some intrinsic advantages (apart from the free solar energy) -- that the hospitality industry lacks: a farmer can always eat his figs when the main overseas market disappears. Or she can try another export crop, switch to growing more food for local sale, or raise more animals for home or regional markets. If all else fails, the land can always be leased, rented, sharecropped, or even sold to someone better able to utilize its potential. After all, thanks to Almighty God, mainland St Vincent is a veritable Garden of Eden, a land blessed more than most with huge swaths of fertile land and more than enough sun, rain, and varied elevations to grow all manner of tropical plants and sustain all types of livestock. So our farmers have lots of life sustaining options, even if they will never get rich utilizing them and even if countries with lots of small farmers are poorer than those with very few.

No better proof of the fearless resiliency and exceptional work ethic of our people when confronted with a real economic opportunity is the way thousands of poor young men took to the hills beginning in the 1970s to grow ganja -- a extremely profitable though illegal plant -- to enhance their economic well being.

Not so for the hospitality sector, which has only one option: get more customers or face economic ruin. Our country is a virtual graveyard of derelict small hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, sports bars, rum shops, amusement parlours, and the like, many of which have changed hands time and again, with the same result. To be sure, there are thousands more acres of idle land in SVG than there are cultivated plots. But even idle land has intrinsic value. As the old people say, "land na rotten": it just keeps or increases its value while getting more fertile as the years pass, a continual source of "interest payments" for generations to come.

Small-farming would never lift us out of our lower middle-income status but at least it will keep feeding us; dependence on international tourism and its unstable low-wage seasonal jobs will do neither, while crushing us with debts and operating costs that will be impossible to service because we would never get enough visitors to make the AIA project worthwhile.

The reasons we will always have few mainland tourist customers should be plain to see for any Vincentian who has travelled. But relatively few Vincentians have ever left the mainland except for a brief day-trip to Bequia's ho-hum Port Elizabeth. This is not to denigrate the largest of the Grenadines islands. Bequia has several attractions to offer tourists including white sand beaches and a lively Easter Regatta, which hosts thousands of mainland and overseas visitors and which recently celebrated its 34th anniversary.

Still, most of our citizens, even those who have attended the multi-faceted Regatta, seem totally oblivious to the mainland's countless tourism shortcomings, including the filthy, ramshackle, and depressing neglect of our city, towns, villages, beaches, roads, paths, and rivers, something most of them tend to take for granted as the natural state of the "Natural Place to Be."

layou_beach2.jpg
The nasty, sand-mined beach at Layou, adjoining the loading jetty for the town's destructive stone quarry

***

ENDNOTE

This is the twelfth in a series of 15 essays on the folly of the proposed Argyle International Airport.

The rest may be found at:

Get ready for a November election in St Vincent and the Grenadines! But which November?
Lessons for Argyle International Airport from Canada's Montreal-Mirabel International Airport
Lessons for Argyle International Airport from the cruise ship industry
Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle International Airport in St Vincent
Lessons from Trinidad and Tobago for Argyle International Airport
The dark side of tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
Why Argyle won't fly: Lessons from Dominica
Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
Airport envy Vincie-style
Fully realising our country's tourism potential
Airport without a cause

***

C. ben-David
 
Reads: 8950





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Comments:

Vinci Vin:

Bravo c. ben:

You have written something positive about SVG in your series: "After all, thanks to Almighty God, mainland St Vincent is a veritable Garden of Eden, a land blessed more than most with huge swaths of fertile land and more than enough sun, rain, and varied elevations to grow all manner of tropical plants and sustain all types of livestock. So our farmers have lots of life sustaining options, even if they will never get rich utilizing them and even if countries with lots of small farmers are poorer than those with very few.

No better proof of the fearless resiliency and exceptional work ethic of our people when confronted with a real economic opportunity is the way thousands of poor young men took to the hills beginning in the 1970s to grow ganja -- a extremely profitable though illegal plant -- to enhance their economic well being".

Except for the fact that ganja is illegal and/or harmful to ingest, your point is well-taken. The realities of which you write are hurtful to many of us who so desperately want to see economic progress in our homeland. We might be in denial but your thesis is hard to dispute, except to say that we should be looking for creative solutions rather thany bury our heads in the sand and expect the problems to disappear.

I continue to read your articles, not because I invite depression, but because you offer quite reasoned opinions/facts. A 'thinktank" of reasonably educated Vincentians, regardless of political leanings, could use your writings to brainstorm and act on possible solutions to these problems that you highlight. It would be a shame if your research just ends up on a shelf without stimulating the need to tackle the problems.

Again, great writing!

Vinci Vin

C. ben-David :

Many thanks, Vinci Vin. I do hope that my editorials stimulate much need non-partisan debate.

I'm am saddened by the comments that I am too "negative" or even "unpatriotic." I think I am just being realistic based on the evidence and highly patriotic for taking a people- and country-based as opposed a political-party approach.

We have to find a way to sideline politics in many of these debates because, in many ways, partisan politics is the root cause of many of our developmental problems.

Vinciman:

Yep! The twelfth in a series of 15 essays on the folly of the proposed… C. Bend-Avid himself; Reminds me of Shakespeare’s words.…
“This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, check at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practice
As full of labor as a wise man's art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall'n, quite taint their wit.”
― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.

"What yo see is what yo get… Hurry up and done Naah?”

C. ben-David:

Vinciman, ey hurt you, eh? You feeling it, eh?

Why don't you do something useful for our people by offering a thoughful rebuttal of my facts, analysis, and interpretation instead of trying to attack me personally which is very immature and shows a lack of intellectual skill.

C. ben-David:

Vinciman, pa you be? Crawl up from wherever you and start to behave like a big man.

Please, please refute what I have written with contrary evidence.

I am willing to admit -- indeed happy to admit -- that I have been 100 percent wrong in what I have written about AIA.

I would be the happiest man in SVG to see AIA bring in 200,000 new visitors, as your hero, the Honourable Cecil McKie, claims will happen two years after AIA is completed who will stay and spend money at all the new hotels that will be built to on the mainland to accomodate them.

Maybe I'll even get a job as a bartender or yard boy!

Pa you be Vinciman? Speak up, man!

Vinciman:

Conman ben-up David you’re toying with the wrong person. Vinciman will never lower his standard to punks like you, in offering up any refutation to your rubbish; I call it like I see it and you’re what I said you are, a punk…don’t doubt it!

Now let us take a look at some of your spoken (written) words and see if I’m wrong in my assessment of what punks look and sound like.
Here is C-ben David’s impression in his own words, of his (so he says) “beloved country (SVG) and oppressed people”…

(1) “Too bad so many of our people are not conscious enough to understand or apply their implications not only to AIA but to their daily lives”.

(2) “What a joke! Most Vincentians can barely speak proper English. Most have very poor reading and comprehension skills, not to mention inadequate reasoning abilities. And don’t even mention spelling and grammar, as seen in most postings here. And all this from persons who have gone to school for years”.

(3) “The Venezuelans have nothing to learn from us dunces”.

(4) “Ecuador has nothing to offer SVG except bananas which we don’t need. Offering technical support? These poor, Third World countries are masters of building structures that collapse after a few years killing many of their citizens during and after construction. Looks like the halt helping the lame”

(5) “SVG passport not good enough to wipe her (his wife) backside with. Don't get her wrong. She loves SVG or we wouldn't return every year in our retirement. Rather, she is just referring to the fact that she won't waste her money buying a passport that has no real value or use compared to the passport from her adopted First World country. Can you blame her? Shouldn't you forget about getting a "useless" passport when you have the most valued and respected passport on the planet: a passport from Canada.”

(6) “But SVG is not a civilized country, it is backward Third World non-entity and anything goes in the dirty world of party politics… we are not ready to join the community of civilized nations”.

(7) “Given what I know about this ill-fated project (Argyle Airport), anyone who contributes would have to be a complete fool or mentally derange.”

So as I said before, see what a PUNK C-ben David is and how he wants me to prove what? Sorry I’m no jackass like you ben-up David! No thanks …”beep” off...PUNK!

Vinciman:

Now, does bright boy C-ben David know better than most Vincentian when he says, “And don’t even mention spelling and grammar, as seen in most postings here. And all this from persons who have gone to school for years”.

Here again is C-ben David our esteemed Vincentian intellectual (or so he thinks) speaking:

(a)“I'm am saddened by the comments… Hmmn?
(b) thoughful ?... Can’t spell… Thoughtful!
(c) accomodate?... Can’t spell… Accommodate!
“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!”…PUNK!
Well there you have it Conman ben-up David?

C. ben-David:

I have no regret or would apologize for any these statements, most of which, I'm sure, are shared by many of our citizens, including many, if not most, of the social, economic, and political elite because I've heard statements like this -- and "worse" -- all my life from our people. A former Governor General was fond of calling SVG "a nation of dunces."


Vinciman:

OK C ben-David, theirs why I won’t associate with the likes of you!
I presume the “C” in your name stands for. ..Crook, Cynic, Confused, Critic, Callous, Confounded, Cryptic, Calculating, Canadian, and best of all Cun…“beep”!

Have a not so nice day “C”-ben David “MOTHER OF ALL UNPATRIOTIC VINCENTIANS”!

Peter Binose:

I am sure if any reader of this site were to judge who tells the truth and who tells and writes lies you would be the winner of the latter Vinciman.

Your paid propagandist remarks and comments bare no relationship most of the time to the content of what people write. Everyone knows you are a paid collaborator of the Unity Marxist Party, the ULP. You are a supporter and assistant to the nasty Marxist led ULP government. You try and belittle people like David because it is most obvious he is your ultra superior, and you therefore need to try and disprove any truth he writes, you must apply the wrong for right swap system that you try and operate.

You take what someone exposes, the truth, you then attack the writer and try and convince the reader that it's not the truth, in an attempt to make right wrong. But it simply does not work, you just don’t have the ability to lie like your leader can lie.

Well our little turdish twerp, no not Kurdish, I said turdish. You need to become a Vincentian patriot, stop being a patriot of a man and become a real patriot of SVG. At this time it is most obvious you are an enemy of our country. Your blind support for a bunch of scum tells us exactly what you are. You are a ghost and supporter of Obeah, because if you support an Obeaman you are supporting Obeah.

Instead of writing misleading crap, put your mind to getting the 150 land owners at Argyle their money that has been stolen from them. Do something to stop the future dumping of chemical and waste directly into the sea at Argyle. Talk about the US$1 million in cash in an old bag. Talk about the big US cash share out. Talk about giving out diplomatic passports and people carrying cocaine whilst travelling on one. Talk about the passports which were burnt, destruction of the evidence. Talk about the bragging in parliament of how Toussaint was stuffed. Talk about the death of citizens at Buccament because of a breach of duty by government leaders. There are thousands of wrongs that you have tried to prove right, which still remain wrong and that is a fact.

You must either be paid a truck load of money for what you do or have a very serious mental illness.

The readers have sussed you at as part of the scum regime, they are not silly, despite you hoping they are. They are all aware that you are a turd.

Well old bean, it’s time to leave you, to allow you write a reply to what I wrote here. In fact that is not a request, it's an order.

David you really do not need to explain yourself to a turd. Remember he is exposed by his silly writing as your inferior.



C. ben-David :

What really is your problem, Vinciman?

Why do you have to insult someone you don't know and have never met?

Why are you afraid to attack my ideas, facts, interpretation, etc.?

Is it because you kept man of the ULP?

Is it because you actually agree with me but are blinded by a false sense of patriotism?

Is it because you are just a nasty person who enjoys insulting people for no reason?

Did someone do you something (like sexually abused you as a boy) and you are just full of rage?

Or are you just congenitally immature?

My own opinion is that you are a bought and paid ULPite.

If so, then you are an unfree man who can never say what he truly feels or believes. If so, I am truly sorry for you.

As for me, I am -- thank God -- a truly free man with no allegiance to or support for either of these wicked political parties.




Vinci Vin:

c. Ben: Vinciman/woman can't helpn him/herself. S/he rises each morning to react, to obfuscate, to malign, to serve evil ..... Wasting your valuable research and analysis on him/her is like the proverbial giving your jewels to swines. You can fight with Vinciman all day and all night and he would never accept the evil of his ways. This is the best example of a wooden head that I have come across.

Now Vinciman you are being tag-teamed. I am going to help c. Ben cut your derriere to shreds.

Your best friend,

Vinci Vin

C. ben-David:

Vini Vin, what Vinciman seems to fail to realize is that his ad hominem attacks merely serve to strengthen my arguments by showing that he can't counter what I am others have written with sound rebuttals and has to use personal attacks instead.

Nor does he seem capable of realising that he only proves my "negative" and "unpatriotic" assertions that many of our people still remain dunces regardless of how many years they have attended school or how many diplomas they have accumulated.

In fact, some people may begin to believe that I-man am actually the Vinciman who has created a make-believe straw man alter-ego only to make my views more credible. (Or maybe Vinciman is actually our very own Peter Binose!).

To turn the old adage on its head -- With enemies like Vinciman we don't need any friends.

Lord have mercy on us all!

Vinciman:

Some people expose their stupidity of knowing everything bad about SVG and in the end finds VINCIMAN. C – ben David is one such fellow.

I don’t know of any well defined rules here on how people should comment to LETTERS; someone clue me in please! I’m commenting the way I see things. And right now I’m saying C ben-David’s comedy of essays is a set of dumb “COMEDY OF ESSAYS”! PERIOD! Every man should have a business, but not every business hath a man.

The role of all Vincy men is to be MEN and not C-ben David. Let SVG MEN be true and all others “beep” off. And Vinciman says that C ben-up David is a punk. PERIOD!

A Vinciman is a lover of all things Vincy, and C ben –David doesn’t add up in Vinciman book. This is nothing personal, only if C ben David makes it personal; and C bend avid, sorry ben -David is personal, he say's my country “sucks”. Now that’s personal! He even thinks that our people are all “dunces”, (he says, he aint regret what he say; and without naming, he says a Govern General thought so too… “a nation of all dunces”).

A governor General!!? Now that’s personal

Is this the same C ben –David that says our country passport aint “beep”? Not good enough to wipe his wife’s backside? And she prefers to use a Canadian passport. Whatever that means!

Is this the same Uncle ben- David that said ‘we aint “white” enough to be amongst the Canadians’ or whoever? Or was it black?

Anyhow! He says we aint civilized enough to be amongst the civilized. Whatever that means!

Is this the same C ben-David that speaks out against the “African Reparations Movement”, who calls us “beggars”?

Why would I want to be, much less listen to C- ben David. In my book C ben David needs to “beep” off. “I’m saying C ben-David’s comedy of essays is a SET OF DUMB “COMEDY OF ESSAYS”! PERIOD! AND C BEN DAVID IS A PUNK! PERIOD! I don’t have to point out why; I let Vinci Vin do that for me!

C. ben-David:

Vincman, you say, that you don't understand what my wife said when she claimed "...our country passport aint “beep”? Not good enough to wipe his wife’s backside? And she prefers to use a Canadian passport. Whatever that means!"

First, this was made in response to a stupid complaint by Anatol Scott, a Vincentian-born Canadian, who happens to be Jerry Scott's brother, about his difficulty obtaining a Vincentian passport, something my wife and I don't have.

What she said had two meanings which a dunce like you can't seem to comprehend.

First, the paper on a Vincie passport is so smooth that it is not good to do you-know-what-with, even in an emergency.

Second, a Vincie passport, by itself, will not get you into the two countries so many of our people are desperate to migrate to -- the United States and Canada, both of which require visas -- because your Ralph-led government has made our beloved country so hard for poor people to survive in.

Can you comprehend any of this? Or can you well understand this but pretend not to because you have been bought and paid for by the ULP?

Poor you for being half a man.

Vinciman:

Wow! LOL. Listen to C ben David explaining the passport issue? Pathetic, really pathetic!

C ben-David check this out.

AS THE CAT and The Fox were talking politics together, the Fox said: Let things turn out ever so badly, he did not care, for he had a thousand tricks for them yet, before they should hurt him. But pray says he, Mrs. Puss, suppose there should be an invasion, what course do you design to take? Nay, says the Cat, I have but one shift for it, and if that won't do, I'm finished.

I am sorry for you, reply the Fox, with all my heart, and would gladly help you, but indeed neighbor, as times go, it is not good to trust; we must ever be everyone for himself, as the saying goes.

These words were scarcely out of his mouth, when they were alarmed by a pack of hounds that came upon them in a full force. The Cat, by the help of her single shift, ran up a tree, and sat securely among the top branches; from whence she beheld the Fox, who had not been able to get out of sight, overtaken with his thousand tricks, and torn in as many pieces by the Dogs which had surrounded him.

Moral:
A little common sense is often of more value than much cunning.

Peter Binose:

VinciPratt, "A little common sense is often of more value than much cunning" what an appropriate descriptive saying for your boss, Wun-Phat-Prat.


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