Fri 5th Aug 2016

Argyle airport – a EC$1.3 billion embarrassment that may never open

Argyle airport will probably never open. It is has become a EC$1.3 billion embarrassment. Argyle can be likened to Germany’s US$6 billion embarrassment which is Berlin’s Brandenburg airport. That also may never open.

Brandenburg airport was due to open in 2011, then 2012, then 2014, then 2016, now 2017. Sound familiar? Argyle has had numerous opening dates, yet it is still not open. Dieter Faulenbach da Costa, who was responsible for planning the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) up until 1999, said he doubted whether the airport would ever be opened. Many people in SVG believe that Argyle will never open.

Berlin spends US$16 million a month to maintain Brandenburg airport even though it is not open. Already at Argyle, parts of the airport are rotting away and breaking up. Tens of thousands of dollars are being wasted at Argyle maintaining the airport, even though it may never open.

Due to the chronic delays, the state governments of Berlin and Brandenburg are also likely to have to pay out millions in compensation to airlines which planned their businesses around a 2011 opening. How much is SVG paying to airlines which planned their businesses around a 2012 opening of Argyle airport?

The team of inspectors, known as ORAT, for Operations Readiness and Airport Transfer, refused Brandenburg airport an operating licence over the lack of safety features. Argyle airport is highly unlikely to get a licence to operate for safety reasons.

Argyle airport has many flight safety hazards including: the runway is perpendicular to the strong and dangerous gusty crosswinds, which can cause accidents at landing and take-off; there is a bird island in the path of final approach to landing and take-off, which can lead to bird strikes on the aircrafts engines; there is water under the runway and the runway will break up under the 400 tonnes weight of a B747 jumbo jet; the runway is exposed to flooding by the Yambou River overflowing and making the runway unusable; the width of the runway is only half the required width for an instruments runway, making the runway dangerous and unusable for landing and take-off in bad weather; and, the airport will not achieve the 95% usability factor and will fail to get a licence to operate.

Berlin Brandenburg airport’s original cost estimate was US$1.3 billion. More than US$6 billion has been spent and it is almost 5 times over budget. Argyle airport’s original cost estimate was EC$502 million. More than EC$1.3 billion has been spent and the cost is still rising. Argyle airport is almost 3 times over budget.

Both airports are financial catastrophes and an obscene waste of money. Both are years behind schedule. Berlin's new airport has turned into a national joke, so too has Argyle airport. 'The airport is a classic example of the incompetence of our politicians,' said Sven Fandrich, a 28-year-old Berliner. The same can be said of Argyle and politicians in SVG.

The whole point of Argyle airport was to boost tourism, but Dominica has shown that wasting EC$1.3 billion on a big international airport that caters for jumbo jets is not needed to increase tourism. What is needed is to get rid of the grossly incompetent ULP regime.

According to Eastern Caribbean Central bank figures about 311,000 tourists visited Dominica in 2000 and 359,000 visited Dominica in 2015; an increase of about 29%. In SVG, there were about 256,000 tourists in 2000 and only 207,000 in 2015; a decrease of about 19%.

According to the Leader of SVG Green Party, Mr Ivan O’Neal BSc(hons), MSc, MBA, the focus on Argyle has killed our economy and swamped the country with poverty, squalor and high unemployment. The opportunity cost is massive.

The EC$1.3 billion should have been spent on restructuring our economy, creating thousands of new jobs, building our own SVG tuna fishing and canning industry with an annual revenue of about EC$2 billion dollars, building factories, building new hospitals and building a university to create a knowledge-based economy.

Argyle airport is a EC$1.3 billion embarrassment and should be aborted.

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