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Gonsalves has said that state-owned companies have enough assets to cover the EC$400 million in debt resulting from the construction of the AIA.
Gonsalves has said that state-owned companies have enough assets to cover the EC$400 million in debt resulting from the construction of the AIA.

State-owned companies have enough assets to pay for the EC$400 million in debt associated with the construction of the EC$700 million Argyle International Airport, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on Monday.

He told lawmakers and media audiences that these assets are owned by the International Airport Development Company –which constructed the airprot, the Argyle International Airport (AIA) — the firm managing the airport, and National Properties Ltd., a state company in which state assets such as lands and buildings are vested.

“In short, there are enough assets available to pay for the debt at Argyle International airport,” Gonsalves said, adding that anyone who wants to see “the vision” can find it in the speech he delivered at the Methodist Church Hall in August 2008.

The international airport, the nation’s first, is scheduled to open on Feb. 14 — six years behind schedule — with scheduled flights by regional carrier LIAT and other regional carriers, and a number of chartered flights from North American.

In his Budget Address, Gonsalves said EC$35.1 million is allocated to make payments related to the completion of the construction of the airport and furnishings and equipment for its operation.

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“Additionally, as anticipated, there is a temporary subsidy for its operation,” Gonsalves said.

He had said in the Estimates debate one week earlier that the subvention given to the Tourism Authority, which is responsible for promoting St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a tourism destination, will be increased by EC$5.4 million.

The growth in this category of expenditure is mainly related to cost associated with the coming to operation of the AIA.

The prime minister reiterated that ECCAA has given the AIA the appropriate certification or approval as an international airport.

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves delivering the Budget Address on Monday. (iWN photo)

He said that as he had indicated, “both on account of the requisite for the publication of the civil aviation charts and procedures of the AIA and the very workings of the international airlines themselves, regularly scheduled international flights will not be available in the first few months of the AIA operations”.

Gonsalves, however, said that LIAT and other inter-Caribbean carriers, and regular charter flights from and to international destinations and cargo aircraft will immediately enhance air access to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines for passenger and cargo.

“I am sure that the operation of the AIA will prove the politically jaundiced doomsayers wrong again.”

Gonsalves said that the estimated cost of the construction and equipping of the AIA is approximately EC$700 million, but the actual estimated value is in excess of EC$1 billion.

The debt on the AIA is approximately EC$400 million, over EC$300 million of which are on soft loan terms, mainly from ALBA, PetroCaribe and Taiwan.

“They are all inside of the Estimates. They are all there. They are not hidden, you just have to look at the public debt details, which are in the Estimates,” he said an apparent response to Member of Parliament for East Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, an opposition lawmaker, who, during the Budget Debate, accused the government of not reporting EC$185 million in debt.

Gonsalves said the airport is one of four major initiatives in the field of civil aviation undertaken by his Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration –which came to office in March 2001 — “to address the critical developmental socio-economic issue of air access”.

The other three, Gonsalves said, are the saving of regional carrier, LIAT, and its on-going restructuring and development; the establishment of the ECCAA — in conduction with five other independent Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States nations — as a Category 1 civil aviation jurisdiction, and the construction of the jetport at Canouan.

“Each of these have been contributing positively to the socio-economic development of our country and will continue to do so in the future,” Gonsalves said.

He told lawmakers, that Argyle International Airport, “holds significant developmental possibilities” for the country.

Gonsalves noted that the conservative projection by the International Monetary Fund 2015 Article IV consultation estimated at least a 1.5 per cent increase in gross domestic product in the medium term from the operation of the airport.

“We must, thus, all make the AIA work for our nation’s further development. I have every confidence that the AIA management, under the chairmanship of Garth Saunders, working in tandem with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority and all other relevant stakeholders, will make a success the AIA.”

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The prime minister said he did not intend “to be detained today by providing rebuttals to the mountains of falsehoods, unwarranted and even unpatriotic statements made against the construction and the operation of the AIA by minority elements largely stuffed with political prejudice.

“Even at this moment, even after it has been constructed and is opening on the 14th of February, some of these jaundiced political elements, spurred on by the dog whistle utterances, or some more supposedly respectable personalities, are willing the AIA to fail or are wishing it a tsunami of harm for no reason other than the celebrated fact that ULP government has accomplished a veritable miracle by turning a long-held dream of a hopeful people into an historic reality.”

Gonsalves said the airport is not only the largest capital project to be constructed in the country, but is also “a metaphor, a symbol, an alive testament to what a determined people, properly led and supported by a wave of principled internationalist solidary of friends and allies can achieve.

“The construction of the AIA, amidst all the topographic, financing, managerial and resource challenges, is one to be recorded with justifiable acclamation in the annals not only of Vincentian and Caribbean history but in the development story of disadvantaged nations across time.”

The prime minister called on all citizens to make the airport work to the benefit of the entire nation at home and in the diaspora.

“It is our patriotic duty to ensure that this happens.”

“I invite all of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including our diaspora to celebrate, when the AIA opens on Feb. 14, 2017, a national event. And, I hope that the opposition members, who have been invited, will come. Let us settle this, once and for all. The AIA is a magnificent accomplishment.”

The prime minister said that electricity cost at the airport will be significant, adding than over a year ago, he signed with the CARICOM Development Fund an agreement for the first phase of a solar electricity project at AIA.

VINLEC, the state-owned power company, is executing the first phase of the project at a cost of EC$2.4 million.

Gonsalves said that additional grant sources for solar energy at the airport are available to supplement this allocation.

The initial phase of the project is for the installation of a 300kilowattw solar PV system.

The aim is to secure solar capacity at AIA of 2 megawatts in shortest possible time, Gonsalves said.

Last week, lawmakers approved an EC$976.4 million package of Estimates of Income and Expenditure for 2017, paving the way for today’s budget presentation.

The package which is a seven per cent increase over the 2016 budget, shows an estimated EC$747.3 million will go towards recurrent expenditure, inclusive of Amortisation and Sinking Fund contributions and capital expenditure of EC$229.5 million.

The budget is financed by current revenue of EC$590.7 million and capital receipt of EC$368.2 million.

4 replies on “Argyle Airport debt is $400 million”

  1. Is the $5.4million increase to cover the charters for 14th Feb? Ralph should show a plan of how this investment will benefit Vincentians. Why ask folks to invest in a project when they have no idea of its future. There will be no direct flights to AIA for a long time. Meanwhile the cost of operation will still have to be addressed.
    These opinions are not criticism but plain and simple facts facing Vincentians. Visits twice a year from folks in the Diasporas is just a drip in the bucket. He is yet to show how, why and where business can invest in this venture. He should not think businesses will blindly follow his false ambition and spend their money unwisely.
    We have a lovely and large airport and that’s all. But it will not be beneficial to the SVG economy, workers and welfare for a long time.

  2. 1. The tiny and inconsequential minority of Internet crazies, “willing the AIA to fail or … wishing it a tsunami of harm” should not be conflated, as the Prime Minister always does, with a larger cohort of critics who have always claimed that our country neither needed nor could afford to build and maintain an international airport at Argyle.

    Equating the two categories of people is like saying anyone who claims global warming will have catastrophic effects is hoping that these catastrophic effects take place. Please, Prime Minister, stop equating those predicting the failure of poor government polices with hoping for the failure of these poor polices. This is illogical in the extreme and is only meant to deflect from the elementary observation that if any project that you have forced on the electorate fails, this would be your fault and your fault alone, not the fault of those pointing out their shortcomings. Don’t shoot the messenger, sir!

    2. Prime Minister, you have never offered one iota of evidence to disprove the following assertion: “I am sure that the operation of the AIA will prove the politically jaundiced doomsayers wrong again.”

    What evidence do you have, save wishful thinking, that we ever needed our would ever benefit from this airport project?

    3. The $EC 400 million debt and its interest payments plus the millions in annual airport operating costs would far exceed any value added tourism and allied monies and benefits the airport would stimulate. Please offer some proof, using various models and cost/benefit analyses, to dispute this assertion.

  3. I’m tired of Vincentians who view valid concerns regarding the AIA as criticisms of the government. We must understanding this is the largest fiscal project ever undertaken in this country. Whether it was necessary for us to build it has been widely opined. However, we must understand the financial implications of such a large project and how it is being handled. Furthermore, we are not hearing much information on how we are going to attract direct international commercial flights to our country. Also, there is the question of how do intend on repaying the debt for the AIA? We were originally told by the PM that the AIA will not cost the taxpayers of this country one cent. Now we have a bill of almost 1 billion dollars and counting for which there is still a lot work to be done on the airport. My frustration with this entire project has nothing to do with airport itself but the way in which the project is being handled, including but not limited to the lack of transparency and lack of information to the public. There are many Vincentians of the view that we will be having international direct commercial flights landing at AIA immediately after February 14, 2017. This is not the case. We know it will take time for this to happen but the government need to inform the people as what the next steps are but one seems to have the answer. And I particularly hate the way in which the AIA is being portrayed as if will solve all our economic problem. In my opinion, this view is purely political and we must stop trying to fool the people. Furthermore, our people must stop being so gullible to misinformation or lack thereof. Let us be practical in our way of thinking. These are modern times and we must learn to evaluate things for ourselves instead of looking at things from a political prospective and stop viewing valid concerns as criticism. That’s the only way we can go forward together.

  4. Let me repeat something that I have stated in this Newspaper before . People seem to be oblivious of the fact that the NDP was in Office for 17 years . It should be very obvious to all but those whose brains are impaired that it would have cost a hell of a lot less than it currently cost .

    The fact is that for many years Governments did not give a Damn about the treatment meted out to those of us who live in the Diaspora , especially while in transit in Barbados . The Bajan
    Officials , and the people at LIAT are the most uncouth persons in the World . It is quite evident that THEY do not understand that as the first persons Visitors & in transit Passengers
    come into contact with after getting off the Planes , FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS .

    In essence THEY are the Ambassadors of Barbados to Visitors & in Transit Passengers . It seems to me that the Sir Grantley Adams Airport , is a Country in the island of Barbados . I
    sincerely hope that OUR Officials at the Argyle International Airport , treat everyone with Courtesy & Respect . Since THEY ARE OUR AMBASSADORS .

    Obviously there will be teething problems at the AIA , and once again the Lunatics who relish
    bad mouthing the AIA , will once again spew their venom in this & other Newspapers . while blithely ignoring the fact that the AIA IS FOR ALL VINCENTIANS , regardless of their Political
    persuasion . Those who wish ill about the AIA ,, should be put in the Mental Home .

    There is absolutely no doubt that the benefits of the AIA far outweigh the disadvantages . There would be a need in my opinion to have Co Operatives etc because Super Market Chains in the USA & Canada , buy goods in very large quantities . Obviously the Tourist
    Industry will start taking off . It is asinine for people to try comparing SVG , to other Countries in the Region that have had International Airports for years , many of them due to the fact that they are blessed with flat lands to build Airports , and get Hotel Chains . WE will get there but
    this aint going to be overnight .

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