TAIPEI, Taiwan: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has assured Vincentians here that the international airport being constructed on St. Vincent’s east coast will meet the 2013 completion target.
“Those who wish to have their doubts, there is nothing I can do about that save and except to speak to the truth of the issues,” he said at a meeting on Friday, April 22.
He also said that while the success of the Buccament Bay Resort was linked to the completion of the airport, investors knew that there would be a lag between the resort completion and arrival of large numbers of visitors.
However, former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell was quoted in the British press saying that the resort was too large.
One half of Buccament Bay has black sand — the natural colour — while white sand has been imported from Guyana for the resort side of the beach to meet the expectations of guests.
The resort, which was constructed on prime agricultural lands, sits at the mouth of the Buccament Valleys, one of St. Vincent’s main agricultural districts.
It includes six restaurants, a spa and a galleon for sunset cruises, a Liverpool Football Club Soccer School, a Pat Cash Tennis Academy and a Performing Arts Academy with classes led by West End professionals.
“I wish them luck, but Buccament is on too big a scale and misconstrued. It’s trying to market itself as a beach resort on St Vincent, whose appeal is all about nature,” Sir James, a hotelier and agronomist, told The Telegraph in a review of the resort on the heels of its official opening earlier this month.
Sir James also linked the fate of the resort to the international airport, which will have a runway that can take transatlantic jets.
The international airport is expected to increase visitor-arrival and eliminate the need for international visitors to fly to St Lucia or Barbados before taking a light aircraft on to St Vincent.
Gonsalves noted that the airport project, which is being financed in part by friendly nations, began in August 2008 and 90 per cent of earthworks will be completed by the end of this year.
Construction of the terminal building is slated to begin next month, eight months behind schedule because of a “long battle” with contractors “over price and terms,” Gonsalves said.
“Commentators about construction of projects lose their critical faculties when they come to certain things which they have a predisposition about,” Gonsalves told the gathering of mostly students.
“We are talking about the largest project since conquest and settlement, of EC$600 million, with very complicated components. I had to move three mountains. I had to fill three valleys. I had to span a river. I had to move 130 middle-income houses and have them build elsewhere. I had to move a cemetery. I have the church to move and that is just for starters,” he said.
He noted that the headquarters of the country’s National Insurance Services was completed two years behind schedule although all the monies were available.
Gonsalves further said that when he proposed building the international airport some might have thought “‘What sort of a dreamer could ever contemplate that this could be done?’
But we are on the road. So, I can understand sceptics. In a ten-year period, I have built one jet airport in Canouan and in the process of building an international airport. Nowhere else in the Caribbean have you seen that happen and, I am doing it at a time when externally it is very challenging,” he said.
Regarding the Buccament Bay Resort, Gonsalves noted that two phases of the project has been completed at a cost of almost US$130 million.
He further said that the project had continued even as similar ones across the Caribbean had been abandoned in the wake of the global financial crisis.
“I don’t know what are Sir James’ objections to the project. I haven’t seen them. But, I say this: the government doesn’t have one cent in Buccament you know. These are financiers; these are entrepreneurs and they have the buildings there. They’ve finished phase one, they are into phase two and they are advancing. That is the reality which is before us,” Gonsalves said.
“It is true that the success of the Buccama project is linked to the international airport but they knew that there would be a gap between when they have significant numbers of persons to come. So, they are making arrangements with other aircrafts out of St. Lucia to bring people. I happen to know that. LIAT itself is working with them,” Gonsalves said.