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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the debate on Supplementary Appropriations Bill No. 4 of 2013 on Thursday, June 6, 2013. (IWN photo)
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the debate on Supplementary Appropriations Bill No. 4 of 2013 on Thursday, June 6, 2013. (IWN photo)
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KINGSTOWN — Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace’s “shock” over the Supplementary Appropriations Bill being debated in Parliament today is because the Government is succeeding in building the Argyle international airport, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says.

Eustace, speaking on his weekly radio programme Monday said he was “shocked” by the bill.

“I was so shocked on seeing this, I thought I saw 208,000 [dollars]. I found the thing unbelievable so I started to look at the various items that could make up all this amount of money,” he said,

But Gonsalves said Thursday he had indicated that he would have to come to Parliament for approval to seek loans to complete the EC$652 million (EC$1 = US$0.37) project, the largest in the nation’s history.

The Prime Minister reminded lawmakers that just before the December 2010 general elections, Eustace told a press conference his New Democratic Party (NDP) would complete the airport.

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But Gonsalves said that notwithstanding that pronouncement, the Opposition has, “at every turn”, put obstacles in the way of the project.

“I want to see them matching their words with their deeds today,” he said, adding that the construction of the airport cannot be supported “with bottle stopper”.

“You have to support it with money, and the money had to be appropriated,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

The Government has to seek Parliament’s permission to borrow EC$148.7 million of the EC$208 million contained in the bill.

Other amounts are to be raised by the sale of state assets, including shares in the Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for which no parliamentary approval is needed.

Gonsalves said his Unity Labour Party government is coming to the Parliament to do the its business openly and transparently

“That is what good governance is about. … I had to come here and get permission and it is the permission which opens the tap to the water,” he said.

He said that under the former NDP administration, Supplementary Appropriations in excess of the sum permitted by law were not brought to Parliament for approval.

He further said that no Finance Committee meetings were held in relations to supplementary bills, as the law requires.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves said it is the policy of his government to finance the airport by funding from different sources and the people gave a mandate in 2001, 2005, and 2010.

He said the electorate would reward his government with a fourth consecutive term in office when the airport is completed.

“That is what sticks in the crop of the opposition,” he said.

General elections are constitutionally due in 2015 and the airport is expected to become operational in about 18 months.

Gonsalves further said that contrary to Eustace’s media statements, each of the loans that make up the EC$148.7 million is a soft loan

“He made a wrong statement there, a wrong assertion,” Gonsalves said.

But Gonsalves noted that when he came to office in 2001, there was a debt of EC$180 million for the Ottley Hall Marina, which was worth EC$16 million.

He further said that when Eustace was finance minister, he paid EC$19 million to service that loan.

“So I want to make that point first,” Gonsalves said.

He further explained that EC$1.3 million of the EC$3.5 million for debt servicing contained in the bill, is for monies from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank for which there was an under-provision in the 2013 Estimates

“And I am simply correcting that,” he said.

The debate continues.

10 replies on “Eustace’s ‘shock’ was over PM’s success in building airport — PM”

  1. For the life of me I can’t see how Ottley Hall Marina was such a failure but the Airport that follows in mirror image to its execution is nothing but success.
    When the airport is complete and we have over $750 million in debt, it wouldn’t be valued over $250 million in 15 years. Guess we’d have to wait until then beat it down like Ottley road.

    I don’t see either as a failure but I can’t call one a failure and not the other.

  2. “Meanwhile, Gonsalves said it is the policy of his government to finance the airport by funding from different sources and the people gave a mandate in 2001, 2005, and 2010”.
    I don’t think the mandate was to build an airport. Ralph may also say the mandate was to build the cross country road and that’s aint going nowhere.
    A good debate that should bring out more information about the airport. However Arnhim should use parliament more to bring out his points, instead of the radio talk show. Ralph has a way in using Arnhim’s own words to suite his cause. He should remember Mitchell’s TV incident some years ago.
    Did you notice how Ralph introduced the 2015 election. He will use it to ask for another term to complete the airport construction, which will occur 5 years later – 2020.

  3. Teacherfang (@Llijame) says:

    The Ottley Hall project is pocket change compare to the Argyle Airport; it’s chalk and cheese.The question we should be asking, is this loan sufficient to complete the airport? I don’t think so but we shall see.

    What is shocking is the notion that a 8-7 election win is a “mandate” by the people. Really? A mandate? Oh well, even to the dull and ignorant they too have their story.

  4. The shock that most people had was to find that there was no coalition of the willing. Also that we ended up paying for most of the equipment ourselves. Ended up paying the Cuban wages that we were told the Venezuelans would be paying. The only real financial help we got was from Taiwan, and I think they only gave the cash because they fear our turning to mainland China.

    We were never ever told that we would have to take loans that would eventually bankrupt the country.

    To me it appears that we were lied to and conned every inch of the runway.

    I still believe it was Gonsalves featured in the WIKILEAKS documents that sent the whole project in reverse.

    I just watched the parliamentary debate on TV, the laughing and giggling by the ULP MPs during serious matters put forward by the NDP, reminded me and the whole Diaspora just what a shower of shite the ULP really are. They really do not know right from wrong, and Gonsalves just lapped it up and proved the worst of them all.

  5. Are all the figures in to show how much the airport will cost. I know the initial figures can be way lower than the final total cost. This is typical of governments all over, to understate and under estimate the real cost.
    Is there a list of donors and how much each loaned the SVG government? This data is very important for any future government. Vincentians will have a hard time for the first 10 to 20 years after the airport is completed. There is no way the airport can return a profit in less time, if there are too many loans hanging on the back side. Look for taxes to go up and a drastic cutback in services, if SVG cannot meet its commitments. I hope there is a way out of this mess, because this scenario can hurt future investments and crime can increase drastically.

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