KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 17, IWN – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says that based on the money spent already, the Argyle international airport has to be completed.
But Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace told Vincentians in New York on Saturday that while he doubts the Government can raise the US$80 million needed to complete the EC$652 million project this year, that is not his major concern.
“… my biggest concern about the airport has to do with the approval of the International Civil Aviation Organisation … of our airport and the runway,” he said at a town hall meeting organised by the New York chapter of the New Democratic Party.
He further noted ta the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is needed for American airlines to land at Argyle.
“And I really want to see the approval given both by the FAA and the ICAO about landing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. … And that, to me, is critical that we get those approvals because a lot of money has been spent already and more to be spent. And God forbid that they say no…” Eustace said.
He said he has asked but not received answers to questions about the alignment of the runway and wind studies and that the wind studies should have been completed.
“We are doing it while we are constructing. These are the issues we have to clear up and try to get some other investment interest in the airport, because St. Vincent and the Grenadines alone cannot afford everything,” Eustace said.
“I will feel very happy if I know the ICAO has approved, because I know at least there isn’t anything to prevent any aircraft from going to Argyle. That approval is vital and we ain’t get it yet. And that, to me, is more critical than the EC$200 million that is needed,” he further said.
Eustace said that while St. Lucia and Grenada have international airports they have to pay American Airlines to land there.
“… and they have a much bigger tourist industry than St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said, adding that the two countries do not have enough traffic to command an American Airline flight.
“And getting a direct flight [to St. Vincent] would not be easy, because, you can go to Barbados and see people going to St. Lucia and Grenada. So, we have to watch that issue very carefully,” he said.
Eustace noted that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said he wants to raise US$20 million of the EC$80 million by selling state lands.
“The land ain’t sell yet, so you don’t have it to put in the airport. So, at best, you can see the airport will take a longer period to construct. It will not be ready at the end of 2013,” he said.
He further restated the position the NDP voiced in 2010.
“… given what has been spent already, one has to work hard to complete the airport.
“And I had entered into some discussions with an airport investor with a view, after reviewing the financing of the airport to see whether there is the possibility of raising some additional funds to complete it,” Eustace said.