Is AIA destined to be always this deserted? (Photo: Kyle Hannaway/Facebook)

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].

The Aug. 19, 2016 The Vincentian newspaper’s lead editorial on the never-ending construction of Argyle International Airport (AIA) left me dumbfounded. How could the writer(s) be so naïve and ill-informed as to produce such an insipid piece of writing? Clearly, the lead editor must have been drinking from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid as the International Monetary Fund, which also baselessly championed the airport’s prospects for our development in their last country review

The editorial focuses on what is claimed to be a slight “erosion in the level of public enthusiasm” for AIA owing to the constant delays in its completion. The only other substantive concerns raised are: (1) who is going to operate the new airport; (2) “whether the government is truly levelling with citizens, and whether we are getting a true picture of the actual state of affairs [of the airport project]”; and (3) “the apparent failure on the part of the private sector to make appropriate investments [in the hospitality, agricultural, agro-processing and fishing sectors] so that … the country can benefit from the operations of the Argyle airport.”

Beyond question is whether we even need an international airport, the assumption being that the answer is a self-evident “yes, we do!” Those who might question this truism are accused of “negative propaganda on the part of unpatriotic and misguided persons who could not distinguish between national interests and narrow political or partisan ones.” That at least some critics might be neither unpatriotic, misguided, political, nor partisan is simply inconceivable, according to the official editorial position of the newspaper.

This closed-minded approach has been heard many times before in attempts to shut down discussions of the feasibility of the airport. In the field of logical argumentation — a form of inquiry that seems beyond the reasoning power of the newspaper — this is called a non sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”), a logical fallacy in which a conclusion does not necessarily spring from its premise. In this case, there is no inevitable empirical or analytical connection between questioning the viability of AIA and being loyal to your country or supporting some political party or the other.

Conversely, the editorial is wilfully ignorant of the possibility that the construction of the airport may have more to do with the maintenance of political power — the continued rule of the ULP from one election cycle to the other — than it does with “help[ing] us to lift off on the road to modernisation and prosperity,” as if airport’s completion would necessarily have this effect (yet another non sequitur).

Indeed, support for my contrary assertion that AIA has been a constant election ploy may be found in the superficial contradiction between the fact that AIA, “still remains dear to the hearts and minds of most Vincentians” and the unwillingness of our private sector to build more hotel capacity. Apart from having empty rooms much of the year — a disincentive to expand their number if there ever was one — our small local hotel sector simply lacks the millions in capital or borrowing power to make even a minor contribution to the success of the airport, the main reason the government has tried so hard for years to attract deep-pocketed foreign hospitality developers. But what The Vincentian fails to grasp most of all is that as far as party-politics in SVG is concerned the “patriotic” masses have far more votes than the profit-oriented hotel owners.

As for the question, “Where are the investments in agriculture, agro-processing and fishing, all areas which can get a lift-off from the Argyle facility?” — another non sequitur — I have already argued that all over the world most products from these industries are transported by ship rather than plane . Can The Vincentian actually be blind to all the container ships arriving in Kingstown on a regular basis loaded with fresh, chilled, frozen, canned, packaged, and bottled food from around the world?

There is also the factual error about AIA addressing the need for more airlift “during the June/July period, the high point for Carnival and vacation travel” as shown, the newspaper claims, by the stranding of travellers because of insufficient LIAT flights and capacity during the recent Carnival. Is it remotely possible that this newspaper is ignorant of the fact that nearly all international carriers either reduce or eliminate flights to the Caribbean during the low-season, May-October, in order to service the busy North American and European summer markets?

Still, the newspaper was quite right to question “whether … the government is truly levelling with citizens, and whether we are getting a true picture of the actual state of affairs” but was prevented from pursuing the implications of this query — for example, that the airport cannot be declared open for business because there is no business to open for — given its entrenched biases, ignorance of the facts, and fuzzy logic.

The editorial ends with one final laughable non sequitur: “We must swim together on it [making the Argyle airport project a success].”

First, Vincentians never “swim together” on anything (Who does not recall the analogy that rightly compares we Vincies to crabs pulling each other down as we try to get out of a barrel?). Second, the irony of using a swimming analogy escapes the editor(s) who seem to forget that this activity takes places in the sea, the natural and most economical route for travelling to and from the mainland of St. Vincent. Third, swimming presupposes the ability to swim, in this case possessing the prerequisites for building an international airport — increased tourist demand; airline commitment; and expanded hotel capacity — none of which we now have or are likely to get with the completion of AIA.

***

This is the 29th in a series of essays on the folly of the proposed Argyle International Airport.

My other AIA can be found below:

  1. Get ready for a November election!
  2. Lessons for Argyle Airport from Canada’s Montreal–Mirabel Int’l
  3. Lessons for Argyle Int’l Airport from the cruise industry
  4. Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle Int’l Airport
  5. Lessons from Trinidad & Tobago for Argyle Int’l Airport
  6. The Dark Side of Tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
  7. Why Argyle Won’t Fly: Lessons from Dominica
  8. Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
  9. Airport Envy Vincy-Style
  10. Fully realising our country’s tourism potential
  11. Airport without a cause
  12. The unnatural place for an international airport
  13. The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
  14. False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
  15. Airport politics and betrayal Vincy-Style
  16. Phony airport completion election promises, Vincy-style
  17. Is Argyle Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us?’
  18. Has the cat got your tongue, Prime Minister?
  19. More proof that Argyle won’t fly
  20. Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
  21. The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
  22. The world’s four most amazing abandoned airports
  23. Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
  24. Argyle Airport amateur hour
  25. St. Vincent’s place in the world of travel
  26. Investing in St. Vincent’s Tourism Industry
  27. The Argyle Airport prophecy: what the numbers say
  28. Did the IMF drink the Comrade’s Kool-Aid?

C. ben-David

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].

11 replies on “Foolish words about Argyle International Airport”

  1. Dave from Toronto says:

    C. ben-David,

    You have been beating this dead horse for a very long time. I think it’s time to give it a rest. The airport has already been constructed. It’s too late to argue over whether it should have been constructed.

    I think it’s time to contribute some positive ideas on the opportunities that are now available to the citizens of this country and how best to take advantage of them.

    I’ll await your positive ideas. Something tells me that we will see pigs fly before hearing something positive about AIA from you. Let’s get the ball rolling. How about coming up with one positive idea? I can see you scratching your head. Come on, think, think!

    Something that I have learned over the years is that I should avoid negative people. I once dated a lady who was extremely negative. She could never find anything positive to say about anything. I would get home from work all cheerful after a good day. But, after being at home for an hour listening to her complain about the weather, the air, the traffic, bad co-workers, etc., I was tired – drained completely of all my energy.

    What you don’t realize is that your negativity is having a negative impact on the country. Please, for the good of SVG, GIVE IT A REST!!

      1. Yes, he calls Argyle airport a “dead horse” while asking me “to contribute some positive ideas on the opportunities that are now available to … take advantage of” the embalming.

        Patrick, this is the kind of brain-dead mentality that allowed this airport to be built in the first place.

    1. Dave, I think you are missing the point. All this time and all these writinngs by C.ben have been a warning against we acting like stupid slaves and lemmings by backing projects based on the flawed thinking of a egotistical leader.. According to your thinking, if your neighbor kills your family you would say: “Oh well, I can’t bring them back to life so I should look for the positive, I have the house to myself, it costs less to travel, and I will now go give a breadfruit to my neighbor. as he kills the rest of the families in the neighborhood.” Why should you like to be fooled by politicians, one whose intention of building an airport was not necessarily to have that airport function but to use it as a reelection gimmick. Why would you want to encourage people to accept leaders doing anything they wish to people of a disadvantaged country? Have you no pride or human dignity?

  2. Patrick Ferrari says:

    C. ben,

    In all the years, we have had one truth concerning the airport. And that was in vino veritas. Hold the “vino” and replace it with “euphoria”: in euphoria veritas.

    The past elections were held on 9 December. Nineteen days before, Ralph landed a LIAT on the unfinished airstrip and declared, “Well, the airport is, for all practical purposes, finished.” In nineteen days the elections were won. In two hundred and forty-nine days after, the airport is unfinished (and they are still borrowing more money – solar lights).

    By proclaiming it finished, what practical purpose did it serve? In euphoria veritas.

    Ralph thinks he can say anything and get away with it because he smart and we stupidie.

    1. Patrick, I prefer “in vino veritas” because the truth is that our people are intoxicated by their own ignorance while The Comrade is truly drunk on his own power.

      Meanwhile, Dave in Toronto wants me to join the dunces and charlatans by declaring that AIA — an airport he claims has already been constructed even though construction work is still undergoing — is bound to be a tremendous success, even though there is not one sign that it will!

    2. Patrick, as a collective, yes, we stupid! Otherwise we wouldn’t keep voting this guy into office. In my opinion the election certainly was rigged, but there must have been at least a significant amount of people that willingly vote for their own poverty. If we were intelligent, as a collective we would all be rioting in the streets right now. We are no better than Venezuelans.

  3. Dave from Toronto says:

    C.ben-David,

    Please don’t speak for me. What I’m referring to as a dead horse is your notion that AIA was a waste of time and it should never have been constructed.

    What’s I’m saying, in plain English, is that you are wasting everyone’s time by ranting about, in your words, ” the unwise decision to build AIA.” My point is that regardless of whether or not the decision to build it was correct, it’s now a useless argument. It’s too late to debate. The project is substantially complete (90%, 95%, who cares?).

    What matters is that it is at a stage where the construction is irreversible. Nobody in his right mind is going to tear it down and scrap the project – even if the Green Party gets into power.

    So, let’s stop playing politics. AIA belong to the people of SVG. Let’s now make good use of it. Time to pull together and make it a success!!!

    Patrick, let’s get some positive ideas from you as well. Let’s all shed this “brain-dead mentality” about waiting to see it fail. We can do better than that!!

    1. Are you actually ignorant of the fact that there are thousands of irreversibly failed government projects all around the world that are nominally “owned” by the people but were constructed soley to keep the ruling regime in power?

      Believe it not, AIA is one such project.

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