KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – CARICOM nations are “unequally yoked” as two members, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and Dominica, still do not have international airports, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said in a letter to Irwin LaRocque, secretary-general of the regional bloc this month.
He noted that these two countries and the rest of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-grouping are pre-dominantly tourist economies. “How can these two countries compete on a level playing field in tourism in the absence of an international airport?” Gonsalves asked.
He noted that Trinidad and Tobago is a petroleum-based economy while Belize, Suriname and Guyana are largely primary commodity producers. Gonsalves said that CARICOM has never considered it to be part of its “developmental business” to help SVG and Dominica to construct international airports.
And while SVG is constructing an EC$765 million international airport, one-third of the nation’s gross domestic product, only Trinidad and Tobago has contributed US$10 million — in grant monies in August 2008.
“Otherwise CARICOM has stood askance, a little bemused, save and except for a small loan/grant of US$4.2 million from the CARICOM Development Fund, some one-third of which is the contribution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines itself,” Gonsalves wrote.
He said that in the meantime, a “compact of the committed” – formerly called the “coalition of the willing” – including Cuba, Venezuela, Taiwan, Austria, Georgia, Libya, Iran, Mexico, and SVG itself, have been working on the construction of the airport, which is scheduled for completion in December 2013.
“CARICOM is not even helping with advocacy to garner resources!” Gonsalves said.