Argyle International Airport.

Parliament on Tuesday authorised with the support of one opposition lawmaker the borrowing of a further EC$13 million for the construction of the EC$700 million Argyle International Airport.

Central Kingstown MP, St. Clair Leacock, supported the bill even as he criticized the government’s handling of the project.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told parliament that the airport – which has missed several completion deadlines since 2011 — will be completed this year.

The opposition said the date is intended to fool voters ahead of general elections, expected by year-end.

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Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, told Parliament that the loan will come from a financial institution in Taiwan

The amount required to repay the loan will be a charge on the Consolidated Fund.

“… the government of the Republic of China has already agreed to provide this sum of money and between the embassy here and the official in the Ministry of Finance, all the arrangements are being put in place to have these monies brought to us to assist in the completion of the airport before the end of this year,” he said in presenting the bill.

Gonsalves said the urgency of securing the parliamentary approval was due to the fact that monies that had been approved in respect of the sale of land in Canouan were yet to be received after a falling out between the investors on that southern Grenadine island.

“And we have to get — make sure that the work goes on apace,” Gonsalves said, adding, “And we are nearing completion and we need to make sure we have all the resources in hand to make sure that the work is being done as the management of the IADC, the International Airport Development Company, has planned for it to be concluded.”

In response to the bill, Member of Parliament for the Northern Grenadines, Godwin Friday noted that the loan is in addition to   the amounts that Parliament has appropriated to the project over the years “with the promise that by now the skies over argyle would have seen jets flying in from all over the world”.

Friday, who headed the opposition in the absence of Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, said that in the last budget, the nation was promised that the airport would have been completed by the end of this year, and that by now “this business of borrowing money to complete the airport would have been behind us”.

He said he gets the impression that when the Prime Minister speaks that the nation must forget about what was done before and “start over from today”.

Friday, however said that he speaks to people across the country and except those who are so committed to the ruling Unity Labour Party that they ignore anything that is negative or critical no matter how plain it appears, Vincentians are tired of hearing promises about the airport being opened and nothing is happening.

Construction of Argyle Int'l Airport began seven years ago. (Photo: Friends of Argyle Int'l/Facebook)
Construction of Argyle Int’l Airport, seen here in July, began seven years ago. (Photo: Friends of Argyle Int’l/Facebook)

Gonsalves also gave an update on works at the airport, but Friday said there was so much vagueness in the language used that he could not accept the promise that the airport would be completed this year or next year.

“Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is that we are hearing all these promises, we are hearing all these requests, we are hearing all this talk about investors are coming and all these wonderful projects that are in the pipeline and we are simply to accept it when we have had a track record of broken promises, wild, speculative kind of pronouncements on this airport and we are supposed to accept it when they say give us another five million [U.S.] dollars and we will be done by September.

“Well, I said in the Budget: I don’t believe it, Mr. Speaker. I don’t accept anything that they say about this airport anymore…” Friday said.

He noted that Gonsalves has cited head of the International Airport development Company Rudy Matthias as giving the completion timeline.

“Dr. Rudy Matthias has been wrong so many times. How can you rely anymore on anything that he says? I mean people are not stupid. We can’t be taken for fools, Mr. Speaker. Be realistic,” Friday said.

Friday told lawmakers that a 6-year-old child, after visiting the airport, expressed doubt that it will be finished this year.

“Mr. Speaker, the point is, that child recognised that there is a lot of work left to be done even if a lot of work had been done.

“So why are we misleading people? Is it that you don’t understand what is required or you are just lying to people about it? Either way, it doesn’t look good. And it is too serious a project — the Prime Minster said it himself — for us to be going along and just saying whatever comes to mind,” Friday said.

“People are fed up, Prime Minister. If you think people are not on to this scam that is being pulled over people’s eyes that you think you are going to have this grand opening, whether in November or December, you are going to fly a plane in from somewhere and then to do what? Two months later you go back and starts reconstruction of the airport?”

Friday said EC$13 million is being allocated to the airport at a time when persons can’t get bandages in the hospital and there are potholes all over the country.

He said that is the opening of the airport is a game, the population is one to it.

“The point is, Mr. Speaker, that this government in its conduct of the affairs of this country with respect to the Argyle International Airport has demonstrated that they don’t know what they are doing,” Friday said, adding that the government cannot pretend that the conclusion date of a project of such magnitude doesn’t matter.

7 replies on “Gov’t borrows $13m more for Argyle Airport”

  1. Anyone who see the progress in the construction of AIA will know that the airport is a long way off from being completed. SVG is not a rich country, and the construction of this airport is a monumental feat, bigger than any other project before it. Be patient, it will eventually be completed and the future generations will be proud. Expect it to be fully completed by 2020.

  2. C. ben-David says:

    Only $13 million more? Give me a break! Even $130 million more is insufficient to finish this white elephant.

    1. Patrick Ferrari says:

      It does not matter C-ben. All it means is that the “crown jewel,” the E.T Joshua Airport, the site that “businessmen will lap up the land at pre-sale once the international airport is at a certain stage” will go up another $13 million. Or the $130 million that you suggested. It does not matter. It has been preordained. Just ask Julian.

      “Certain stage?” When that?

    2. Luther Bonadie says:

      C Ben ,
      I guess you have no Intensions to fly out of St. Vincent anytime in the future.
      Listen, if you happen to be on any plane with me , I jump out and swim.
      You call the airport a white elephant, now , I’ll call you a brown donkey.

  3. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    One more false presentation by the MNU boys, pretending that the job will be done by election time. NO

    Remember that the important date is the day the first commercial international airline lands at Argyle with passengers. That will be no time soon and after many $13 millions have been spent on this boondoggle.

    God save us from “progress” like this.

  4. petergriffin says:

    Why are they not borrowing to pay the one month salary to civil servants?Labour really loves vincentians eh.I hope with the 13 million the PM can finish the airport very soon so that he can get brave enough to call the elections.It seems like he is forgetting that time is running out for him.I hope I live to see you and Julian standing in the defendant,s box of a courtroom to answer several charges.

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