Fri 18th Dec 2015
EC$900 million - the opportunity cost of Argyle Airport
Argyle Airport is a big economic mistake. It is choking our economy and will drag it down further, as more and more money is pumped in to it. The original cost estimate for the Argyle airport was EC$502 million, but about EC$900 million has been wasted on it.
The ULP regime has already admitted Argyle will not make a profit, costing more to run than it will make. In terms of the opportunity cost, it is important to consider what benefit could have been gained by Vincentians, if the EC$900 million had been invested wisely to cater for Vincentians’ needs, rather than tourists’ needs.
This money should have been invested in industries that create sustainable sources of revenue for our country and jobs for our people. Also, we should have invested in educational facilities for our people to enable them to compete for highly paid jobs all over the world.
We could have set up a tuna fishing and canning industry which would have created thousands of new jobs, especially with the secondary industries associated with it. This would also have created income for the SVG Treasury. There is still no income for the country from Argyle airport; the ULP regime is still begging from other countries and the IMF.
We could have built five factories to export agro-processing produce such as fruit juices, baby food, teas and other added-value foods. This would have created new jobs and income for the country.
We could have modernised agriculture to create an organic foods industry that exports foods and provides sustainable incomes for farmers. At present, about EC$200 million a year is spent on imported food and that is money that should be going in to Vincentian farmers’ pockets every year. Food would also be cheaper in SVG. We could have built a marketing corporation in Marriaqua to help farmers tap in to foreign markets and export.
SVG has lost hundreds of acres of prime agriculture lands, previously used to cultivate peanuts, sweet potatoes, pineapples, corn and other short crops, because of the Argyle Airport project. This has caused a significant loss in revenue and jobs in the agricultural sector and weakened the economy.
We could have built our own university and massively increased the number of Vincentian children who become university graduates. At present, only about 1 to 2 per cent of each year that starts school ends up a university graduate at the age of 21. The children that do not graduate miss out on earning tens of thousands of dollars a year in graduate jobs.
A number of drinking water reservoirs could have been built to store drinking water and so avoid drinking water cuts in the dry season. We could have set up a freshwater export industry and subsidised a 50% cut in the price of water.
We could have set up a renewable energy industry to produce electricity and cut the price of electricity by 50%, with several wind turbines and two more hydro units on the Colonaire River. Money saved by households in reduced water and electricity prices could have been used to stimulate economic growth.
We could have built new hospitals in Kingstown and Union Island and upgraded health facilities throughout the country. The Kingstown hospital has fallen to ruin under the incompetent ULP regime. There is a shortage of medicine in the hospital and relatives of patients have to provide sheets and food. Gonsalves chooses to seek medical treatment abroad and not at the hospital in Kingstown.
We could have set up other facilities to benefit Vincentians, such as free education, free internet nation-wide to stimulate innovation and created strong business and entrepreneurial sectors. Since 2006, businesses have suffered a massive decline in sales as there is no money circulating the country.
It is important to not just view the cost in monetary terms. There has been a massive social cost to our country with a high rate of crime, murder, unemployment and poverty.
After 36 years of independence, SVG is still highly in debt and poor. Vincentians are being starved of jobs and money, because EC$900 million has been wasted on Argyle airport. The opportunity cost is devastating. Nine out ten children leave school and college and cannot get a job.
We must put Vincentians’ needs first.