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Fri 5th May 2017

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Argyle airport an economic outrage

The International Airport Development Company (IADC), National Properties Limited, National Investment Limited and the SVG Minister of Finance and Planning were responsible for the construction of Argyle airport. The project was meant to cost EC$502 million (source: Final Report Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)).

However, it is strongly believed that the amount of money wasted building Argyle airport is about EC$1.5 billion. This has been an outrageous waste of money and the Argyle airport is a stupid approach to economic development in SVG.

Having spent EC$1.5 billion, all we have, in reality, is simply a transfer of operations from E.T. Joshua airport to Argyle airport. There is no significant increase in tourism or economic trade. The ULP regime has thrown away EC$1.5 billion on Argyle airport and the country has not moved forward at all.

The EIA said that traffic projections for 2015 would be of 737,000 passengers a year (about 2019 every single day) with the operations of aircrafts like the B747-400 Series of jumbo jets. The projection was a gross insult to the intelligence of the people of SVG and is a total falsehood. At present, zero passengers are coming by B747-400 Series jumbo jets.

The SVG Minister of Finance, Gonsalves, said it will cost about EC$20 million annually just for the maintenance of the Argyle airport. It is believed that revenue from Argyle Airport is insignificant and far from enough to cover it’s light bill.

The focus on Argyle airport over the past 9 years has increased hardship, unemployment, crime and poverty in SVG. Businesses have suffered, and even though Argyle airport is finished, SVG businesses are seeing no benefit. Sales are still very, very low. Take a look at the taxi stand outside the Finance Building in Kingstown and see that tourists are nowhere. The taxis are barely used.

The construction of Argyle airport has been economic madness. Our country has seen no overall economic gain. The ULP regime has virtually bankrupted the SVG economy with the focus on, and construction of, Argyle airport at a cost of about EC$1.5 billion.

According to Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal BSc (Hons), MSc., MBA, the main policies that need to be implemented in SVG to bring a significant increase in jobs and revenue creation in our country, are (a) our own billion dollar tuna fishing and canning industry, (b) free high-quality education from pre-school to university, and (c) taxing the super-rich white foreigners in Mustique and Canouan.

Countries worldwide with high-quality education are at the top economically and financially and their people have a high standard of living. Singapore, Mauritius and Malaysia are very good examples. These countries focussed on high-quality education first, then build their infrastructure incrementally. Unlike the ULP regime, who have virtually bankrupted SVG with one big project.

Until such time that we make high-quality education a top priority in SVG, we will continue to move backwards and not make any significant economic progress.

We must stop being a follower in SVG, waiting in vain for tourists to come, in the hope of making a dollar. Argyle airport is not the cure for SVG, it is the plague for SVG.

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