KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday defended his government’s decision to outsource the management of the Argyle International Airport (AIA), slated to be completed in 2014, saying that the skills needed are not available locally.
“This is to tell you the folly many people utter, completely reflective of their inability to engage in independent thought and action,” he said of questions about why the management of the EC$652 million AIA will be outsourced.
Gonsalves, speaking at a symposium on the AIA, said such comments reflect a “kind of bogus, superficial nationalism, which have no depth.
“They know that … we don’t have the skilled personnel now to do it. We have to train them and we have to make sure that the requisite experience is developed and we have that as a process,” Gonsalves said.
“That is part of our decolonisation; because the same bogus nationalists who parrot these inanities, they are the ones who are among the most backwards, colonised and unemancipated minds in the country and I am not going to be side-tracked by that kind of that a thing,” Gonsalves further stated.
He said management of the AIA is a “critical” issue and that the Cabinet will early next year consider various proposals.
“This is no commentary on our very capable Director of Airports, who is combining the technical
work she is doing at E.T. Joshua [Airport] with the management of E.T. Joshua,” Gonsalves further said.
He, however, said that the new protocol would allow the Director of Airports “to address the technical aspects of the airport from the standpoint of the planes”.
“But the actual management … this is a very involved … a significant job,” he added.
Gonsalves had said in earlier speeches that former Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who left office in 2009, wanted to get that Southeast Asian nation’s airport authority to assist in running the AIA.
This country wanted the Malaysians to become an equity partner and give them the contract to manage the airport while training Vincentians to rise to the managerial positions, Gonsalves said.
“That didn’t work out because they had their hands full in Asia and didn’t want to come over to the Caribbean finally,” he said.
Gonsalves and Badawi in 2006 exchanged official visits to each other’s nation and those trips because the subject of U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks.
In at least one of Gonsalves’ two trips to Malaysia, he was not accompanied by any technocrats while Badawi spent most of his time fishing and unwinding in the Grenadines before address lawmakers in Kingstown.
With the Malaysia proposal off the table, Gonsalves said Tuesday that ANA, the soon to be privatised state entity that manages airports in Portugal, is interested in coming here “to work with us”.
Other possibilities, according to Gonsalves, include the management enterprise for airports in Qatar.
Gonsalves further said that his government is discussing with a foreign private sector entity the possibly of doing the landing facility and the fuel farm at Argyle, a US$10 million investment.