Final pavement on the runway continues, according to this photo uploaded to the Friends of AIA Facebook page on June 30.

The Argyle International Airport has lost its first chief executive officer (CEO) even before the long-delayed facility is completed or operating.

Garth Saunders, chair of the Board of Director of Argyle International Airport (AIA), the state-owned firm managing the airport, confirmed this to iWitness News on Wednesday.

iWitness News sought the confirmation after Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said on his weekly radio programme on Monday that the CEO had quit the job.

Eustace also said the CEO resigned because he felt that the EC$729 million airport — which has missed a number of completion targets since 2011 — would not be approved for landing aircraft.

Saunders told iWitness News that the CEO, an American, quit after six weeks, citing health reasons.

He said that the executive, who had been hired on contract, submitted his letter of resignation two to three weeks ago.

Saunders, an engineer, said he had no reason to believe that the CEO had quit for other reasons than those stated in his letter.

“I have no reason to think so at all,” Saunders told iWitness News.

iWitness News understands that the CEO, who was never named publicly, was a retiree who is around 70 years old.

The resignation of the CEO is the latest blow to the project that came wrapped in political garbs when it was announced in 2005 and has divided Vincentians largely along political lines.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced on Monday that the airport would not be completed by the end of this month.

Chair of the AIA board of directors, Garth Saunders. (IWN file photo)
Chair of the AIA board of directors, Garth Saunders. (IWN file photo)

Chair and CEO of the International Airport Development Company (IADC), economist Rudy Matthias said on April 1 that all construction work would be finished by the end of May, regardless of the weather.

The IADC is the state-owned company responsible for the actual construction of the airport, while AIA is responsible for its management.

Saunders told iWitness News that he has been “given stick” (criticised) for saying that the IADC has not been realistic with the completion targets that it has repeatedly given to the public.

The engineer, who has more than 30 years experience in construction, told iWitness News that with the amount of work excavation work remaining on “Petroglyph Hill”, he does not anticipate that actual construction would be complete before the end of August 2016.

Speaking on his radio programme on Monday, Eustace pointed to the airport as proof of the “incompetence” of the ruling Unity Labour Party.

“If you want further proof of this incompetence that you have in this Government here, you cast your mind out to the Argyle international airport,” he said in the programme in which he accused the Government of being incompetent in the management of the tourism sector.

“Gonsalves promised Vincentians an international airport at Argyle. He said that the airport would be completed and become operational in 2011, having started around 2007-2008… He said at the time the airport would cost EC$480 million. He promised that the airport would be built without increasing the long-term debt of this country because they had a coalition of the willing who were willing to finance the airport on soft terms — grants and so forth…” Eustace told listeners.

“He has not lived up to any one of those promises,” the opposition leader said.

“What we have now is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. The airport, whenever it is finished, will cost over the $1 billion that we projected. I will be proved right when I said some years ago, that’s where we are going to end up — over $1 billion.”

Eustace, an economist, said the airport would also make it impossible for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to achieve in the medium-term the international standard of a   60 per cent debt to GDP ratio.

He noted that the Government had said that the airport would have been finished for Carnival 2016.

“Well, I don’t think carnival come yet. And so it goes on and on. What kind of project is this? … The airport is not going to finish this year and Gonsalves knows that it is not going to finish this year,” Eustace said.

Vincy Mas, the nation’s carnival, ended last week Tuesday, July 5.

Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (IWN file photo)
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (IWN file photo)

“The bottom line is that Gonsalves did not plan this project properly because he doesn’t know how to plan anything. Where is the Cross-Country Road? Where is the National Stadium?” Eustace said, mentioning two major projects announced by the ULP but shelved after initial work.

“All of those were promises. Where is the economic take-off he promised since 2008? This project is now a national disaster and it is a man-made disaster created by hurricane Ralph,” Eustace said of the airport.

“There was no proper planning for the project, there was no real coalition of the willing with sufficient money to cover the cost of the project; there was no project manager, there was no contractor responsible for the project and there was no economic feasibility study for the project and up to now,” he said.

He further noted that the government owes landowners whose properties were acquired to facilitate construction of the airport.

“Some have gone to their graves and still haven’t gotten their money…” he said.

“Make no mistake about it. All of this comes back to the door of Gonsalves. A man who likes a lot of old-talk and sweet-talk but basically incompetent when it comes to doing something to actually benefit the country. A man who cannot deliver the goods for the people of this country,” Eustace said.

But Saunders told iWitness News that while persons are commenting about the departure of the CEO from AIA, they do not mention the fact that there are three managers working with him at the airport.

They are an operations manager, human resource and finance manager, and a handling services manager.

“Everybody is saying ‘Well, the CEO resigned’ but nobody wants to investigate and say things are happening, people are working,” Saunders said.

He urged persons to move beyond the politics surrounding the airport, saying that if it fails, it would cost the country even more.

“I don’t want us to join a chorus where we feel that let’s continue to bash the airport because it might have started on the wrong foot, it might have started off as a political project.

“But at the end of the day, the project is there and somebody’s got to make it work because it would be worse if it is there and it doesn’t work because we have already spent the money. We are already committed,” Saunders told iWitness News.

Argyle Airport will not be complete by month end

33 replies on “Argyle Airport CEO quits after 6 weeks on the job”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    Many of us have been writing about these things for years. The ULP has only been mildly skeptical about the increased costs and repeated completion delays up to recent times. The party has a lot of catching up to do.

    Perhaps now, more people will see the airport project for what it really is: a carefully orchestrated, cynical, deceitful, and economically destructive trick to keep the ULP in power one election after the other, nothing more, nothing less.

    1. Brown Boy USA says:

      I agree with your last comment, because so it appears. For if it walks like a duck, whacks likes duck and craps like a duck, it must be duck!

    2. Luther Bonadie says:

      C-Ben,
      I thought by now you would have shut up about the airport.

      For mounts you have been spinning on this airport, like a dog trying to catch it’s tail ;unfortunately , yours is tucked tight right up your ass.

      I am surprised that you are still around talking like that LAZY Eustace, may be he and the X man can find it for you.

      HA !!!

      1. C. ben-David says:

        I far prefer to be “like a dog trying to catch it’s tail” than like you, a dog eating its own vomit over and over again.

      2. I am afraid c.ben has been right all along. He has been providing accurate information all along. If I were you L B, I would not talk because you make yourself look even worse.

  2. What is realy going on with this airport! It is looking like SVG is incompetent.
    One would hope that they did their homework on the international standards and requirements for this airport.

    1. The airport was built for political reasons and not to actually function. now that they won the election they are trying to salvage things or make excuses why it does not work, or is not profitable. I fear we are going to have to pay airlines to come here.

  3. Why, pray tell, was the most recent “CEO” of this project an American? Why not a Vincentian? You have so many capable and resourceful people who can make a business out of basically nothing. Surely they could run an airport…

    I am totally floored at the millions and millions of dollars that have been thrown at this windward disaster… All that has happened, year after year, has done nothing other than require the people to give more, pay more, receive less, and get basically nothing in return for their sacrifices. (Oh, sorry… I guess there’s that “someday” thing…)

    But my real question is why, when the opposition is bringing up so many relevant points, can they not get elected?

    Dear Vincy friends, please give this some thought. Demand a government that meets your needs. We “tourists” will be with you on this. We don’t care about a fancier airport; we care about how you’re doing every single day.

    1. Brown Boy USA says:

      Gato, as a born and breed Vincentian, I say thank you for your insight. You my friend is of value to SVG because it’s people like you who bring in tourist dollars to our economy and encourage others to do likewise based on your experience here.
      It seems like we Vincentians have unfortunately lost our way and see things only through political lines. Even when the facts are right there staring us in the face, we continue to believe in charisma, handouts and empty promises from this government. I could remember how proud a people Vincentians were, they begged no one for anything and each community work together to build and ensure each other survive. But today we have become complacent, satisfy with whatever crap have been thrown out way to by corrupt politician, who ambition is to serve themselves and not the masses. We forget about self-help, self reliance, community development, community spirit and development, and it’s all man for himself, and as long as I get mines I don’t care about my neighbor because he not supporting Labour! I do hope our people can wake up, look around and call it what it is because this country is just falling behind everyday and we Vincentians just stand idle by watching it go down the drain.

      1. Thank you, Brown Boy! After being taken aback by some pretty hostile responses, I am grateful for your remarks.

        (And, as you no doubt know, we are having plenty of complacency, fear, political polarization, and hostility going on here in our own country these days. And too damned much of it involves guns. It is not a reflection of our best selves… It is, in fact, an abomination and a tragedy…)

        The Vincys I know are as you describe how Vincys “used to be.” They have jobs; they work hard; they take care of each other; they join forces to repair potholes in their neighborhoods when public services do not; they garden; they take care of their families; they start up small independent businesses; they are resourceful; they are welcoming; they are curious, optimistic, and hopeful.

        I really have no idea how this whole Argyle debacle can be salvaged at this point. I wish I knew.

    2. Luther Bonadie says:

      Gato,

      How can an irrelevant opposition, with a dumb ass leader bring up a relevant question.

      What do you mean by we tourist, who give you the authority to speak for all tourist who has ever, or is going to travel to St Vincent.

      You darm people just learn one word, and now feel you know all the words in the Queen’s English.

      SH*******T

      1. Well, Sir, I do not presume to speak for “all tourists,” but I can speak for those with whom I have spent much in SVG over the last fifteen years or so – as well as with people who have moved from elsewhere to spend their lives in your country, with many, many local people who have become friends over the years, and with Vincys currently living in the US.

        The Vincys I know who support the Argyle project do so, in great part, because they feel strongly that a new and better airport will bring in more tourists – and more jobs, and boost the economy, and therefore help improve their lives. And this has been one of the biggest “selling points,” as well. Sadly, facts and statistics do not support these premises, as others have noted.

        But I will say this again, and you may consider this solely my opinion, if that works for you, that no airport is ever a “destination.” in and of itself. No one comes to New York to “visit” JFK or LaGuardia; people just want to get in and out, safely and as conveniently as possible.

        In fact, most travelers I know HATE just about every minute they have to spend in any airport, no matter how “nice” it is! Look at your own traveling experiences… How many times have you said to yourself, “My goodness; this airport is so nice I think I’ll just spend some extra time here…”?

      2. can you just for one minute take a minute to intelligently respond to the points made by commenters. Attacking people without presenting valid rebuttals does nothing for your cause.

      3. Every thing Luther Bonadie says in any post is a reflection of himself that he sees in others. No substance. “Empty vessels make the most noise”. Prey for him.

    3. Why we do not have different leadership?…. There are obviously people that vote for a nice smile, tough talk and empty promises rather than substance.

      As they say Vincentians can pick bananas but they can’t pick leaders.

  4. Eustace should continue talking on all the bad policy of Gonsalves. As Trump is showing and, as Gonsalves has shown in the past, that is how to win elections…just never stop, never give up. Next he should talk about all the jobs Gonsalves has promised. He can mention that Gonsalves promised a 300% raise to the teachers, etc…

    1. I am glad to find myself connected to these posts, and will do my best to respond to each and every one of you.

      i am not a Vincy; I an a loving visitor One of my dear friends is married to a Vincy, and his brother died a few years ago because there was no adequate care for him on St. Vincent. We did our best to raise money for him to get to Trinidad or Barbados for treatment, but it was too late. He died, leaving children and family. It didn’t have to happen.

      I recall our friends taking us out to Argyle to see the beautiful grazing land, and to have dinner at a wonderful restaurant that was starting up there. There were cattle, and farms, and homeowners. All this is now gone.

      I wish i could muster some enthusiasm about this project, but I cannot. I have Vincy friends who hope it will change their lives. But year after year, their lives become more difficult. They cannot afford food; they have no jobs; they have only minimal medical services; workers at the biggest “resort’ have not been paid. Access to one of the most glorious tropical gardens in the world, Montreal, is nearly impassable. All of this is, forgive me, shameful.

      We who come to your country year after year want nothing more than to see your people thriving, and to share that with you.

      1. I hope others appreciate your contribution to this site and the raising of awareness as I do. I believe a non-Vincentian perspective is important. Most visitors never say anything and never return. Obviously our government does not care. They are in it for themselves. Maybe Vincentians are worse than US citizens: We vote for looks and tough talk, not for substance. We can pick bananas but not leaders.

  5. Luther Bonadie says:

    Will someone please tell me what that LAZY DUMB ASS Eustace, and that blow shell Kenton no Chance knows about the AIA.

    Talking Fu**** ing shit morning, noon and night, and not spending time to take a good bath, and wash yourself with soap properly.

    Sitting and running your mouth for selfish, cynical reason will make you insane, empty and senile one day.

    You wonder why people get senile in the old age, just look at that ” monkey head man ” Eustace and see it coming to him.

    Kenton your time is ticking man, keep on keeping on brother you’ll find it to.

    All the other bad mouth, stupid, dumb ass Vincentians who cant see further that they belly buttons, and toe nails.
    All of you are a bunch of backward small minded beggars of old, hand me down cloths, and broken down cars, and one day will they will grow being evil, old looking like old wrinkled Prunes.

    HA !!

    1. Just like Vinciman, you really provide a lot of facts and evidence to support your claims and insults.

    2. Luther, Why so foul mouthed? People who resort to that kind of obscene language usually do not have a good command of their language. Did your mama use all the soap to wash your mouth out so the other people can’t get any to bathe with? Obviously she was unsuccessful. There is no need for all the mud slinging. That is all you do. I have not seen you make one single useful or sensible point on this site, You just verbally abuse others. Go to the library, borrow a book, sit down and read it. You may learn something other than how to curse people. Your self esteem must be really low.

  6. skeckpalmer says:

    Garth, the airport is already a failure. Planning not prayer is what was needed to start a project like this. What do you want Vincentians to do: sit on the arse and say nothing about this albatross around their necks? It already is causing havoc on the economy, jobs, people and the environment. You are just defending you pay cheques. Vincentians were never brought on board because Ralph lied and said it will not cost them a cent. Now the island has a billion dollar debt that will take more than 50 years to be paid. Did SVG really need an airport: No because there must be the resources and infrastructures to build and maintain an airport.
    You have a nerve asking Vincentians to keep quite when arse kissers like you were too dumb to speak out when questions were being asked. Your excuse “we are already committed” is full of holes. The entire truth was never told to Vincentians and you are following Ralph with his lies and deceitful jargon.

    1. Yes; this airport, and paying for it, seems to be sucking the life blood out of many Vincentians. And still not a single hint about any international carrier that might choose to forego Barbados and head directly for Argyle, or even add it to their routes.

      As I have said many times – sounding like a broken record! – visitors NOTICE when costs go up, when local people are suffering, when basic services are minimal or completely absent. (Earlier this year, my husband and I were shocked to realize that our grocery bills in Bequia were MORE than what we spend at home, and we live in one of the most expensive counties in the US.)

      No new airport will obliterate these facts. What difference could it possibly make if it’s “easier” to get someplace people no longer want to go…?

      1. The establishment continues to raise taxes because they love money more than they love people. Before the airport is even operational they want to start other projects to keep the cash flowing from our pockets and into government coffers. New harbor and city in Arnos vale; new hospital, more people hired into government jobs. Anything to increase revenue at the expense of the people.

  7. Hello, Lostpet –

    From my perspective, it seems it would have made more sense to focus on infrastructure, such as medical services, public transportation, road improvement, more “visitor attractions,” and so on, BEFORE beginning construction of a monumentally expensive new airport.

    These upgrades would serve both locals AND visitors, provide many rewarding jobs and income for local residents, and generally improve life for all.

    It has long perplexed and disappointed me to see that so much of the Argyle construction has been outsourced to “experts,” and even basic workers, from other countries. I have never met a Vincy who had ever been, or currently is, employed at the airport, or who even knows a fellow countryman – or woman – who has. This seems a shame. I cannot believe that there are no Vincentians capable of running heavy equipment or pouring concrete – or doing any other number of jobs at all levels. (The only employed locals I have seen are those working on construction of the nearby “Carib Village.” I have no idea if they are even being paid, and that project – charming as it will doubtless be – is hardly an essential component of an international airport.)

    As for building a harbor (and a “town”) at Argyle… I thought doing so had been ruled out, due to the fact that it’s a windward shore, and due to the general topographic conditions of the area. Windward harbors are never desirable, and require massive seawalls, and the maintenance of same, in order to protect them. Were there unlimited funds, skills, and resources, to construct such a harbor, its primary use would undoubtedly be for the delivery of jet fuel and the receipt and dispersal of bulk cargo – which would make it an industrial harbor, much like Kingstown. Any “tourism attractions” would most likely be completely incompatible.

    Additionally, construction of such a “harbor” would most likely make the cost – and the time frame – of the airport pale by comparison… Unfortunately, the absence of such a harbor makes the prospect of tanker after tanker of flammable jet fuel driving over the twisting roads between Kingstown and Argyle a somewhat alarming prospect… Alternatively, the cost of constructing a cross-country pipeline to move that fuel is hard to imagine.

    So… Almost eight years later, there are still many unresolved issues. (Dr. Ralph is “correct” about that; he’s just apparently not concerned about the same issues I am!) Convincing even one airline to add SVG to its non-stop routes seems like almost a minor concern compared to these, now that I think about it.

    I don’t have an answer… What happens going forward is up to the Vincentian people. You know what you love about your country, and I am trying to be as clear as possible here about what I have grown to love about it over the past almost-twenty years. I don’t think those two things are very different.

  8. Patrick Ferrari says:

    I am sick of airport opening dates, but it does not mean I have health problem.

    Could it be that the CEO does not have a health problem but, like me, he is just sick of opening dates?

  9. Hey, again, Lostpet –

    Thank you. I must admit that it seems to me that, if attracting “tourists” is the idea, then maybe some inquiry should be made to those tourists themselves as to what matters to them, whether you happen to like tourists or not! Perhaps that has happened; if so, I’m not aware of it.

    There is so much name-calling on both sides; everything is quickly reduced to pointing fingers at who is a “real Vincy” and who is not, who is an idiot, who is a liar, who has broken more promises, which dog is chasing his/her own tail. When this happens, not much useful dialogue can take place. We are seeing it happen here in the US far too much these days – at least one of our Presidential candidates is great at that!. And you’re right: The more name-calling, the less that any real problems are addressed.

    It would be wonderful to see the opposition offer some real concrete alternatives and/or plans, in addition to just replying in kind to the jabs of the current government, throwing back names, and making accusations. That would give people at least an alternative to which to aspire. For quite some time, it seems that you all have been offered a choice only between either “keep hanging in there and trust me,” or nothing at at all. Given that choice, most people choose “hang in there”…

    And that seems to be what’s been happening for the past eight or nine years.

    1. In a nutshell: we have lost our way in SVG. This happens when the government cares more about the government than it does about the people.

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