KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) on Monday said that there continues to be “no clarity” on how the EC$652 million international airport being constructed at Argyle is to be financed.
“Gonsalves, continues to ignore economic reality,” the NDP said in a press statement Monday morning.
The press statement came on the heels of a 105-minute speech Gonsalves gave Sunday night at ceremony to break ground for the construction of the terminal building.
The NDP said the Prime Minister’s speech was “an empty address to a few party supporters in Argyle”.
Gonsalves said that the international airport will cost EC$650 million to build and not the EC$480 million initially estimated in 2005.
The 2005 estimate was revised to EC$589 when final designs for the airfield were completed in 2007.
Gonsalves said the increased cost was because of a bigger terminal building, apron, and cargo area and because of inflation.
But the NDP said Gonsalves “has resorted to cheap political rhetoric in an effort to secure his political support base which has been wavering under the pressure of the ULP’s [Unity Labour Party’s] poor economic management of our country”.
It said the “confusion within the ULP” can be seen in the different dates Gonsalves gave on Sunday and CEO of the Tourism Authority Glen Beache gave international tourism stakeholders last year.
“2013 now joins 2012 and 2014 as possible dates for completion of the project,” the NDP said in its statement.
The NDP said there was no mention of the “coalition of the willing”, Gonsalves rubric for countries partnering to build the airport, the largest capital project in the country’s history.
Dr. Rudy Matthias, chair and CEO if the Argyle International Airport Development Company on Sunday listed among contributors to the project Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Iran, Libya, Mexico, Austria, and the Caribbean Community Development Fund.
“The Prime Minister is clearly without support and without money,” the NDP said.
The NDP, which was in office for the 17 years ending March 2001, said it is clear on how it will proceed with the airport, citing its position outlined during the 2010 election campaign.
“… we have the support of a major international construction group capable of undertaking large-scale infrastructure projects. They will partner with an NDP administration to finally get the Argyle airport into a state of readiness,” the NDP reiterated.
“The construction company will work closely with the independent consultants already announced to assess and rectify the seeming planning mistakes made by this ULP administration. Once a clear plan of action is in place, the airport will be completed in a timely fashion so as to minimize any further financial wastage,” the NDP.
The party said its position “is not based in fantasy or empty rhetoric.”
“The New Democratic Party cares about airport development, we have the support to do it and we will pursue it sensibly, with regard for our country and our people’s economic reality.
The NDP further said that with the country’s economy “in shambles” and the International Monetary Fund “at our door”, the for the ULP to even mention airport development “is to ignore the pain being felt by the general public who are unable to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to increase and people’s salaries remain the same”.
“Fixing the economy must be priority number one,” the party added.
The NDP also said Gonsalves must change his position on regional airline LIAT, adding that he should listen to his own Ministry of Tourism.
“The Ministry is saying that the high cost of flying via LIAT has negatively impacted regional visitor arrivals to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Invite competition to come in so that you increase visitor arrivals to our shores. Give the population a chance to benefit from the absence of a monopoly,” the party stated.
“Invite competition and do it now. That is priority. Fix the roads in the country and the infrastructure so that the current airport at Arnos Vale will not be flooded by 30-minute rain showers. That is priority,” the NDP further said.