The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected] 

By Kenrick Chambers

Kenrick Chambers.
Kenrick Chambers.

Let’s face it, the metamorphosis of globalization is upon us. People, companies, and nations are integrating and interacting more. The movements of services and goods globally requires logistical infrastructure that would accommodate the rapid pace of an integrated world. Hence, an international airport is a major apparatus of a nation’s infrastructure to generate economic activities — such as international trade and tourism. International airports offer increased accessibility, which in turn fuels the tourism sector. With an increase in the number of visitors and airport users, more money flows into the local economy.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The OECS is a nine-member grouping, comprising of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and SVG, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands (BVI is an associate member of the OECS) (OECS.org). Except for the BVI, the other eight members of the OECS use the same currency (Eastern Caribbean Dollar), has similar culture and geographical resemblances. Therefore, the islands are ideal for a comparative measurement of gross domestic product (GDP) — those with an international airport and those without. GDP is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. Therefore, it is an important measurement of a country’s productivity. To state differently, in a simple manner, it is the health of a nation’s economy — the greater the number, the healthier the economy, ruling-out inflation. So, let me demonstrate the importance of an international airport, in relationship to GDP, using 2012 GDP, measured in current prices in U.S. Dollars. OECS members with international airports all have larger economies, respectively. OECS members with international airports are: Antigua and Barbuda: GDP US$1.2B, Grenada: GDP US$0.881B, St. Lucia: GDP US$1.3B, and St. Kitts and Nevis: GDP US$0.771B. OECS members without international airports are: Anguilla, Dominica: GDP US$0.517, Montserrat, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines: GDP US$0.741B.

Positive impact

As depicted by the chart, countries that possess an international airport have greater economies (measured by GDP). Although there are geographical and population variations, however, the constant variable that categorize their economy on the graph, as measured by GDP, respectively, is the type of airport they possess — those with International (airports that can accommodate intercontinental flight)—and those without international airports.

You may have notice, St. Kitts and Nevis GDP is only slightly higher than St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We must consider, however, St. Kitts and Nevis has a population of only 57,000, compare to St. Vincent and the Grenadines population of 110,000, almost twice the population of St. Kitts and Nevis (as of 2012). Additionally, St. Kitts and Nevis has a total area of 261 sq. km (St. Kitts 168 sq. km; Nevis 93 sq. km), whereas St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ total area equals 389 sq. km, which is comparatively larger than St. Kitts and Nevis. There are no significant economic advantages between the two nations –except an international airport. They both have assets of sun, sea, sand, fertile soil, similar culture, industries, and a geographical separation of only 316.68 miles. Yet, St. Kitts and Nevis, although smaller in size and population, its economy is larger. Aid by accessibility apparatus, in 2011, St. Kitts and Nevis travel and tourism industry was 28 per cent of total GDP, which contributes to 6,500 direct and indirect jobs, and generated 227.6 million (XCD) in visitor export (WTTC). Moreover, supported by an airport that can accommodate intercontinental flights, foreign investors are investing in St. Kitts. Hyatt Hotels Corporation, for example, announced a development plan for the construction of a hotel (Park Hyatt) in St. Kitts, scheduled to open in 2015.

Other positive impacts are Direct and Multiplier impacts. Direct impacts are economic activity generated by airports — such as the purchase of aviation goods and services, and spending of airline passengers passing through the region. Multiplier impacts, however, result from the re-circulation and re-spending of direct impacts within the economy. This re‐spending of cash can transpire multiple times and takes two forms — indirect and induced. Indirect impacts occur when businesses spend their revenue on expenses; whereas, induced impacts occur when employees purchase goods and services. For example, as airport employees spend their salary for housing, food, and services, those expenditures circulate through the economy resulting in increased spending throughout the economy. So, accordingly, the probability of St. Vincent and the Grenadines economy to growth because of an international airport is favourable.

In closing, the positive impact of an international airport on a country’s economy goes well beyond the airport fence. We’re in the midst of globalization, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with its natural beauty (sun-sea-and sand), has the potential of becoming one of leading tourist destination of the world. So while the capital project is beyond the scope of all previous ventures — the largest thus far — the project is essential for the development of the Land of the Blessed.

Read also: Negative economic impacts of an international airport: a tourism development perspective

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

6 replies on “Positive economic impacts of an international airport: a comparative analysis”

  1. Eric Williams says:

    I agree with your well written analysis, Kenrick. By now, everyone here should know that politics aside, I am a 100% supporter of the International airport, and that is based on my career experience in the field of aviation, and being directly involved as an aviation business owner.

  2. ERIC, I can better that I am 110% supporter of an international airport, and so is almost ever single Vincentian.

    KENRICK CHAMBERS, what most intelligent Vincentians are against is the method with which the airport is being funded and built. Having been told that when the airport is finished we would have no debt, because a coalition of friendly countries would pay, some to supply the equipment, some the cement, some the black top. Then we were told that the airport would be built by the Cubans, because the Venezuelans were paying their wages.

    After we found out that none of that was true and we have borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars which has put the country into almost eternal debt, brought the country to its knees, bankrupted us, some of us feel cause to complain. Not about building the airport but because we feel misled and lied to.

    The Arnos Vale site could of been extended, there were completed studies and it would of cost about a quarter of the cost of Argyle, and it would of been finished several years ago, or at least 3 years.

    I personally feel and its my actual opinion that the airport was built at Argyle to fulfil the political dreams of one man, I also believe that very same man is a fiscal dunce.

  3. Kenrick Chambers says:

    Gentlemen, I appreciate you taking few minutes of your precious time to read the article. The issue deserve a dialogue that would guide us to a unify objective of utilizing the Argyle International Airport as a sustainable developmental tool.

  4. The problem for most persons is the manner in which the project is being constructed.
    There is a sense of lack towards transparency and accountability. No published schedules, audits of monies spent to date, openness to answering questions.
    Everything is always boiled down to either being for or against.

    Regardless, well written piece.
    Would be even more helpful if you stated when each airport was opened, the initial investment to construct, converted to today’s dollars, and the repayment period for financed costs.

  5. I agree with what Peter had to say 150%, many years ago when thinking or talking about a bigger airport in ST. Vincent I always felt that they could extend the Arnos Vale airport. When I saw how ST.Thomas V.I. extended theirs futher out into the sea to make it bigger I felt ST. Vincent could do the same, and save a whole lot of money. But the present power hungry want to be dictator who wants all the glory to say that he built the International airport has got the Vincentians in debts that is way, way over their heads, is lied to and covered up. The inteligent Vincentian knows better and woes for not knowing what kind of deals have been cut with this man and these other countries, later on finding out because of these debts the countery does not belong to them.

  6. An International Airport: Infrastructure of this kind should be: 1. Capable of upgrade & expansion to accommodate growth. A major ingredient is space and Argyle tops Arnos Vale; 2. Least occurrence of Geophysical obstacles: After leveling, Argyle is preferred; 3. ECCAA, ICAO & FAA Operational and safety requirements cannot be compromised: Arnos Vale already failed the transitional slope requirements test for take-off/landing (Cane Garden-Sion Hill ridge and the Belmont – Kelbourney Mountains) reducing payload capacity of air crafts by up to 40%. Yet there are more reasons, but time is limited. N.B., St. Vincent is no St. Thomas (geographically) by any stretch of the imagination.
    Clearly, Argyle site (versus Arnos Vale) makes more sense in the given circumstances.

    The article has relevance in the development economics debate. Care has to be taken in pursuit of the positives or they may become obscured by the potential negative impacts.
    I say all minds on deck to make the future promising rather than pessimistic.

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