Argyle International Airport.

By Kenton X. Chance 

The leaders of the two main political parties here have given their latest completion timeline for the long-delayed Argyle International Airport, with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves saying it will open “quite soon” but Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace saying it will take another five years.

Gonsalves told a rally the Unity Labour Party (ULP) in Arnos Vale on Saturday that a small plane will be used to test the landing lights of the airport on Thursday.

Eustace, speaking at a rally of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in Layou that same night, said much work remains to be done at the airport, including paving of 40 per cent of the runway.

Gonsalves said that Thursday, Nov. 19 is the birthday of Frederick Stephenson – “The Humble African”, who is MP for South Windward, where the airport is located.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the ULP rally in Arnos Vale on Saturday. (Photo: Anthony Dennies/Facebook) Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the ULP rally in Arnos Vale on Saturday. (Photo: Anthony Dennies/Facebook)

“There is going to be a small plane, which is going to do a test flight, testing the approach lights at the Argyle International Airport. And I have asked them if they will allow me to come on that flight, and I ask them if I can bring along the Humble African,” Gonsalves told party supporters.

“Remember they say nothing could land there you know,” he said in reference to critics of the EC$729 million project that has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011.

“The point is this, the way the test flight is done for the lights, you have to have a smaller plane and they can see the approach lights and see how you can do the touchdown.

“This is all part and parcel, when you coming to the end of building the airport, before the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority put their stamp of approval and say ‘Go ahead! Go ahead!’

“We are on the verge of opening it and that is what will be done on Thursday,” Gonsalves said, suggesting that the ULP will hold an event to coincide with the test flight.

“I tell you this, I read and I hear what Eustace said ‘that he will have to go to an international company to get the money to finish the airport, but first, he will study it.

“And he said in New York that he doesn’t think it can open until 2020. Well, that is if you make the mistake and elect them,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves told party supporters that the NDP has said in its manifesto that they want to keep E.T. Joshua Airport, the nation’s main airfield, functioning until 2020.

“Why would you want to keep E.T. Joshua functioning until 2020 if you’re not intending to keep Argyle waiting until 2020,” Gonsalves said.

“But I want to tell you I have all the money to finish the airport because there is very little that remains to be done on the airport, and the airport will be finished soon and open quite soon.”

Gonsalves noted that Parliament has approved a loan for US$5 million from a bank in Taiwan, adding that all the documents have been signed on that loan.

The same thing was done for US$16 million through any agency of the United Kingdom government and the documents are signed and the equipment has been received,” he said.

Gonsalves said that the monies that developers owe for lands in Canouan will come “very shortly” and so too, the balance of the money from the ALBA Bank.

“We have all the money, we don’t need no money from no international business company that Eustace them talking about. We don’t need none of that money. We gone past that long time, and, as you’re seeing, everything at the airport is winding down and we are finishing. And that is the realty. But nobody is going to get me to open the airport before I dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t,’” Gonsalves said.

He further said that his government — which is yet to name a single airline that has agreed to fly to Argyle — has airlines lined up to service the airport.

“Glen Beache (head of the Tourism Authority) has just come back from Canada and he has given a report on the airline from Canada which is coming; similarly, out of America – at least two airlines; and also from Europe,” Gonsalves said, but did not name any airlines.

“So, I want to tell you this. And when you hear them talking, leh me emphasise this: when you see Vincy Heat plays the United States of American in September next year on what is the Labour Day weekend in the United States, we will have Labour Day weekend here and the planes shall be coming, the big jets, and landing at Argyle International Airport to bring people from overseas to see Vincy Heat play America here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (Photo: Zavique Morris-Chance/IWN file)
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (Photo: Zavique Morris-Chance/IWN file)

At the NDP’s rally, Eustace said that his party has outlined its position on the airport in its manifesto, which has been released online and will be distributed in hardcopy from Monday.

(Read the NDP’s manifesto)

 

“I know that the burden is going to fall on the New Democratic Party to finish that airport…” Eustace said.

“And that will be a burden itself, larger than any other burden we face at this time because I do not believe and there is evidence to suggest that that airport will not finish in 2016, it will not finish in 2017, it will not finish in 2018, and we are looking now to 2020 before that airport is completed.”

Eustace said that consultants hired by the NDP estimated in 2008 that the airport, which has been under construction for almost eight years, will cost EC$1.1 billion, EC$272 more than the government’s estimate.

“When the government was saying 400 hundred and something million, our consultant was saying $1.1 billion. Well they reach 800 and they have plenty things to do still.”

He said work on the US$32 million fuel farm is yet to begin. “The runway, only 60 per cent of it paved, the other 40 per cent has to be paved. That is million and million of dollars,” Eustace said.

“You have 61 land owners out there whose land they took away and they have not been paid for the land. That is another 20-something million dollars. So, a lot of money has to be spent on the airport. And with all the old talk of Gonsalves, he is unable to manage the finances of that airport, and things are just as bad as they were.

“But we have given a commitment that our government, a New Democratic Party government, will in fact have to deal with the airport in the same way that we will have to deal with our new hospital.

“But, there will be one big difference. Ours will be managed process. Managed by persons who are competent to provide that management. So when that hospital opens, it will be a job well done and it will come in time with the budget that we but at it,” Eustace said.

12 replies on “Gonsalves says airport to open ‘quite soon’; Eustace says in 2020 ”

  1. My own research on the airport published on this site in 16 essays (see https://www.iwnsvg.com/2015/07/20/phony-airport-completion-election-promises-vincy-style/), plus the writings of others and my visits to the airport site at Argyle, tell me that Eustace’s observations are closer to the truth than those of Prime Minister Gonsalves.

    There is a distinction that must be made between the following semi-connected issues: (1) completion of the airport; (2) certification of the airport by various bodies; (3) agreements by airlines to service the airport; (4) readiness to send and receive passengers (i.e., being operational); and (5) full operation of the airport in the sense of sending and receiving regular scheduled flights to and from international destinations.

    For example, (1), (2), and (4) may be in place, but the airport will still not be “operating” in any meaningful way even though it is “operational” because no regularly scheduled international flights and only the odd charter flight will be willing to fly here.

    Similarly, (1), (2), (3), and (4) may be in place but the airport will be operating well below both its capacity and economic viability in regard to its spin-off economic value-added effects on tourism and other economic sectors.

    It is unlikely that any Canadian airline (Air Canada has shown no interest in flying here and WestJet has a modest presence in nearby tourism powerhouse Barbados) has any interest in flying to Argyle unless the government promises to pay for all the empty seats and waive all landing and other fees, a demand that we could never fund for any period of time. The same hold true for European and American airlines.

    I have no insider information but I am convinced for the reasons I have given in my essays that no international airlines is seriously interested in servicing the mainland of St. Vincent, especially when they already fly, often on an irregular basis or with small aircraft, to nearby countries like Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia.

    So, the Prime Minister exaggerates (others may use stronger terms) when he claims that the airport will be open “quite soon,” if by this he means that it will be sending and receiving regularly scheduled flights full of passengers in the next few years.

  2. Now Ralph is out to try something! The lighting excuse to fly a little plane into Argyle is to say it’s operational. But Ben has eloquently shown in the above document that will be a bogus claim. I doubt that it will have an effect on the election because Vincentians have little faith in anything Ralph says.
    He wants to be on the plane so he can claim that the airport is ready. The Vincentian news media should be asking several questions to help Vincentians understand what they are hearing from Ralph. They will fail to educate SVG nationals about the true picture of what’s happening at Argyle. If 60 % of the runway is completed, then it will definitely take a few more years to do the other 40%.
    Ralph mentioned he has all this money to complete the airport but yet he had to ask Parliament for additional funding. All these stories are now coming forward at election time; so why should the voters believe him. No 747 or even a 737 will be flying regularly into SVG for a long time. Only chartered flights with SVG nationals coming for July and Dec will land at Argyle around 2020. There are no resorts and hotel infrastructure to accommodate 200 passengers daily. And even that cannot sustain the airport financially. We’d be paying through our arse for Argyle for a long long time.

  3. Kenton,
    Could you tell me what the hell that LAZY Eustace knows about building anything, especially that airport in Argyle, what he knows of what goes on there , when was the last time he visited the site.

    Get this in you head Eustace in a LAZY man, and you got the audacity to write it here, what a fool are you, or your brain is just as lazy as his.

    You keep writhing all these nonsense to make your Eustace look like he knows something.
    Eustace is old, and has past his time, he has nothing to offer St. Vincent other that confusion and bull sh**t to the dumb.

    His own party members knows he is darm USELESS, and want him out as quickly as possible, and here you are sounding like and looking like a foul cock to make him look like he is something, and knows something about Argyle airport.

    Why did you get fired from the Vincentian ?

    Get this in your head Eustace is LAZY and useless, ( ” useless Eustace ” ) and you are on the loosing useless end of a hypocritical journey.

    In the past, I look forward to reading your web page, recently I am sick of it, I have told almost ( 30 ) of my friends about you web page. Today I am alerting them about your one eyed, one mouth and slanted way of doing things here of which you called journalism.

    We are going to get ride of this iwnews site for good.

    Thank you,

    1. I would agree with you 100 percent if you conceded that both parties are composed of “useless” and “lazy” people who know nothing about building or operating an international airport or attracting millions of tourists to our tourism-challenged country.

  4. I don’t even know why you want an international airport. I love your islands, your culture. Tourism could destroy it. You don’t have the infrastructure for tourism. I’m a nature tourist. Most of your trails are forestry trails, not on any map. Snorkeling can be quite dangerous. A Belgian woman got raped on the highway in broad daylight a couple of years ago in Richmond Vale. Admittedly that probably wasn’t a Vincentian, just someone who lived in the hills beyond the end of the road. Tourists love security, like Palm Island. They don’t want to have to lock their doors at night. They see burglar bars on every window, and they freak a little. That said, you will get a lot of tourists. I’ve been coming for five years now, every winter for two months. I come because you don’t have many tourists. Tourists with the option of an international airport, a direct flight will be slow at first. There are few flights a day to Barbados from Canada, and they only leave from Toronto or Calgary. Everyone in Canada has to first travel there. A direct flight to St Vincent from Canada is going to take quite a few years. I think it is probably more important to realize an international airport allows you to ship products to the rest of the world. That’s where I think you will make money. Even marijuana. Since it’s virtually legal now, available at any rum joint, and becoming more legal everywhere else in the world, it’s one agricultural product among many, that you can bring to market very quickly with this airport.

  5. I look forward to the day when political parties in SVG will stop feasting on the ignorance of the populace. From both of the platforms there are misleading statements to say the least by the leaders.
    Just to add some balance, the fact is, the construction of the fuel storage facility has commenced. You can even see evidence of it on google maps which last updated their imagery on 23rd August, 2015.

  6. Kenton,

    I know you would not post what I wrote yesterday about you and that LAZY, USELESS Eustace. This is your site so you can post what you like, but that don’t change reality.

    You did not answer my question, what the hell that LAZY USLESS Eustace know about anything airport or Argyle for that matter.

    You are Eustace’s lap dog.

    lets see if you post this.

    1. Bonadie you really are piece of crap, how on earth you have the audacity to call Eustace names when you are such a slime ball yourself I will never know.

      Who on earth do you think you are telling Kenton how to run his business and insulting him. Do you actually think you have a God given right to do that?

  7. What none of you realize is that there are currently no runway lights installed.

    One thing I can tell you all I have promised Lloyds of London details of the aircraft that lands at an unfinished unlicensed facility, which is not an airport because it is not finished. If it is carrying a passenger they will like to know that as well.

    The tower electronics are not working yet and the repeater lights and microwave transmitter dish at Bequia is not yet installed. This whole matter is simply another slimey plan by Gonsalves, and certainly based on several lies, to get some publicity for the upcoming election.

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