Argyle International Airport looking toward the unfinished section of the runway. (IWN photo)

The unfinished one-third of the runway at the long-delayed Argyle International Airport is the easiest part to complete of the work that remains undone, says Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

“… the easiest thing to finish out there is the remainder of the runway. The easiest thing!” Gonsalves told a press conference of his Unity Labour Party on Monday, four days after he said 6,000 feet of the 9-000-foot runway have been paved.

“Paving a runway, once you have all the materials there, is not a lengthy process. Just like, not the same way, but paving a road, the more detailed work is the drains and the preparatory stuff on the road itself and the laying of the base and the various things; not actually putting on the different coats and the asphalt and so on,” Gonsalves said.

“The airport is not identical to that, but I am doing that by parallel reasoning for you. And I have to be careful lest somebody say I am equating both, because you have some people who are schooled in level 101 logic and don’t go beyond it.”

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Gonsalves told a ceremony on Thursday after four small planes landed at the airport that “the airport, is, for all practical purposes, finished”.

Among the work to be done at the airport is the paving of 3,000 feet of the 9,000-foot runway, the completion of the fuel storage facility, and completion of the perimeter fence.

The EC$729 million airport, which has been under construction for just over seven years, has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011.

Last week, head of the state-owned International Airport Development Company, Rudolph “Rudy” Matthias, said that the airport will need about two and a half months more to be completed.

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Asked at the press conference on Monday when exactly the airport will be finished, Gonsalves said:

“Well, you heard Dr. Matthias saying by the end of the first quarter; by the end of March next year.  I said in the Parliament every time the IADC gives me a deadline I say well I accept what they are telling me as being reasonable.”

He, however, said critics haven’t taken into account that workers have had at least 100 days on which they could do no work.

Also, the government doesn’t always get the drawdown on money from loans and grants at the time when it is needed, said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

“So, sometimes, you have to hold things in going without ramping up when your work plan says you should ramp up, because you don’t have all the money to do everything at the time.”

He said there are also operational reasons for the delaying, including the three years when no blasting could have been done in one area as the airport company waited for petroglyphs to be removed for preservation.

Meanwhile, the main opposition New Democratic Party which has repeatedly said that the airport will not be completed before 2020, clarified that prediction last week.

“Not if NDP wins,” party head, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace told a media briefing when asked about the 2020 timeline.

He said the airport will not be finished before 2020, “If it is going as current.

“When NDP wins, it will be different,” Eustace said.

General elections have been called for Dec. 9 and are expected to be a straight fight between Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party and the NDP.

Eustace said that if elected, the NDP would approach the airport in quite a different manner.

“We will have to make the case to the international community as to why none of them put any money into the airport — neither the Caribbean Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, not one of them who are our major lenders put anything into the airport,” he said.

“They will do so for a new administration,” he said at the press event where the NDP launched its election manifesto.

Asked about the NDP’s timeline for completing the airport if elected,

NDP chairman Linton Lewis who chaired the media event, said, “as soon as possible”.

Eustace said: “We don’t have a timeline on that now, but we will work with them to come up with a programme.”

Meanwhile, West Kingstown MP, Daniel Cummings, the NDP’s spokesperson on infrastructure, said at the same press conference that Eustace’s projection was for 2020 if the ULP were to build it under the mechanism that they are using.

“The NDP says it will have a new focus after having looked at what is there and using completely different mechanism to hasten the completion of the airport, and to make sure that it’s properly operational,” Cummings said.

5 replies on “Runway is ‘the easiest thing’ to finish at Argyle — Gonsalves”

  1. The “easiest thing” is not just completing the runway but building the entire airport.

    The hardest thing is to make the airport viable by ensuring that it fulfills its mission of bringing in enough new tourist, business, and other passengers to at least pay for its construction and maintenance. If these building, debt servicing, and operation costs end up overwhelming its spin-off benefits, then the airport will be a colossal failure.

    On the basis of the failure of several airport, hospitality, and businessprojects and within the context of the broader Caribbean airport and tourism sector, my best prediction is that Argyle International Airport will be deemed a colossal failure within three years of its operation (https://www.iwnsvg.com/2015/07/20/phony-airport-completion-election-promises-vincy-style/).

  2. Oh boy, here we go again. The ndp don’t have a clue. They twist and turn so much, I don’t think they know where their big toe is. First they not supporting the airport, then a major investment company will finance it after ‘find it where’, then they’ll complete it in 2020. They came back to say that it’s the ulp who will complete it in 2020, they will complete it ‘as soon as possible’ but they can’t see the ulp completing it soon. They make me want to laugh.

    People really think they are serious and ready? What a mess of svg if they get into power.

    JOKE: we already seek finance for a hospital but we don’t know where we will build it

  3. When the fox can’t get the grapes he said it was sour, Well my congrats to Ralph in a strong effort to get it built.
    There is only one criticism, he should have had a jet landing to show the international use of it.
    To all those who have hatred for PM i say suck it up,the airport is here now no one can stop it.

      1. Build it and they will come,you can’t have support of anything if it’s not there.

        Vincentians should be glad they have the support of Ralph building educational facilities to make them smart enough to know that the airport will be a failure within 3 years, thank Ralph for making you that knowledgeable.

        Mr.ben-David, instead of predicting that and being part of the problem,think positive and be a proud part of the solution

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