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 news.iwitness@gmail.com

The February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day) grand opening of Argyle International Airport (AIA) featuring the arrival of the same old regional carriers that have served E. T. Joshua International Airport at Arnos Vale, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), for donkey years plus perhaps four largely one-way charters from New York, Toronto, and Cuba has stirred print media editorial interest from two traditional supporters of the airport’s construction.

In its Friday, Jan. 27, 2017 staff editorial, The Vincentian newspaper opined that:

The [Argyle] international airport promises to position this country as a truly competitive tourist market.”

Not a shred of evidence supporting this “promise” is offered except that “aviation connects the world” and that the global aviation industry supported, “… 1.7 million jobs and accounted for $37 billion in GDP in small island states around the world.”

In the field of Western logic, a mode of reasoning antithetical to our African-based, pre-rational system of argumentation, this is called the “ecological fallacy,” an interpretive error that assumes there is no difference between a whole class of items and individual members of that class. In this case, the Vincentian assumes what is true of the entire global aviation industry must be true of each its individual airports.

The Vincentian wants us to believe that because global aviation generally has earned a lot of money and secured a lot of jobs for many small island states around the world, it is bound to do so for St. Vincent Island (SVI) as well. This is equivalent to saying that because a given government is corrupt – not this one, of course — so must everyone who is part of it.

A rhetorical error also informs the word “promises” which is based on a false appeal to emotion called “wishful thinking” (suggesting a claim is true because you strongly hope it is true).

The newspaper also has little understanding of the term “truly competitive” which they conflate with “guaranteeing economic growth.” What could be “truly competitive” about a rush to the cutthroat market bottom by opening an international airport in a destination with so few premier tourist features in a tropical region awash with truly first-class attractions on nearby islands easily accessed via four underused international airports (Canouan, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Grenada)? The Vincentian needs to understand when the supply of services goes up in the absence of growing demand, prices and/or profits are bound to fall.

The official The Vincentian position was underscored by its longest-serving editorial writer, Dr. Kenneth John, who proclaimed in his Feb. 3, 2017 column, “The fact is that we need such an airport [AIA], as everybody knows …,” committing two logical fallacies — “appeal to self-evident truth” and “argumentum ad populum” — with these few words.

Similar criticisms can be levelled against a second local newspaper. In its Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 staff editorial, Searchlight agreed with the government position that, “… the imminent opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA) will be of significant benefit [another example of wishful thinking] to the Vincentian economy” but only if, “… all Vincentians, both home and abroad, engage their imagination and intellect to create and exploit opportunities in a global economy of which we form just a tiny percentage. Our new airport would surely lock us in more firmly to the international economy [more wishful thinking].”

These high sounding and patriotic words, reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s famous statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” in his 1961 presidential inauguration speech, are both patriarchal and arrogant: our masters in government have “given” us an airport over which we never had a say but now we, its servants, are responsible for making it a success.

As Nobel prize laureate in economics, Milton Friedman, wrote of the Kennedy phrase:

“To the free manthe country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not over and above them…. The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather What can I and my compatriots do through government to help us achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom?’ … And he will accompany this question with another: “How can we keep the government we create from becoming a ‘Frankenstein’ that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect”” (Capitalism and Freedom)?

These words apply more strongly to politically-tribalised SVG in 2017 than to the United States where they were published in 1962, as the total politicisation of the airport project from start to finish by a ruling regime that more than any before has erased the distinction between party and government clearly shows.

Louis XIV of France is reputed to have proclaimed, “L’Etat, c’est moi” (“I am the State”). In little SVG, the State is the Unity Labour Party (ULP). Since both the ULP and all branches of government are ruled over with an iron fist by the Prime Minister, this means that “L’Etat, c’est le Comarade.”

Among the many signs proving this is how any opposition to or criticism of the ULP/State conceived, built, and operated AIA is deemed not only unpatriotic but as a treasonous act demanding state punishment. As one party fanatic with the pen name “Dave from Toronto,” parroting denunciations by many others before and since, wrote responding to my questioning of airlifting produce overseas (http://www.iwnsvg.com/2017/01/13/new-airport-will-create-important-opportunity-for-farmers-fishers/ ):

“… you hate SVG so much…. I doubt that you are a real vincy…. Maybe, the Ministry of National Security might want to keep an eye on you. I’m sure there is some provisions for treasonous writing...”.

s free speech now a treasonous offence in little St. Vincent?

Like “Dave from Toronto”, the Searchlight editorial implies that Vincentians, both at home and abroad, who refuse to “… engage their imagination and intellect to create and exploit opportunities in a global economy ….” would be responsible for the failure of AIA to achieve its potential. This view is wrongheaded not only for repudiating Friedman’s notion of personal freedom in a democracy but because it ignores the countless efforts of generations of Vincentians, both here and in the diaspora, to invest resources in their homeland, sometimes with great success but more often with abject failure. This not only reflects the bankruptcy of most startup businesses around the world but the paucity of viable investment opportunities in a country that “forms just a tiny percentage” of the world’s population, size, and productivity, the eventual result being that, “Our new airport would surely lock us in more firmly” in a debtor’s prison of no escape.

This is because underpinning both the Searchlight and The Vincentian editorial positions is that SVI has great economic potential that AIA is bound to unleash, a baseless assumption contradicted by an absence of valuable exportable resources and sluggish and uneven growth since the decline of sugar cane revenues in the mid-19th century.

If we have so much potential for development, why have so many of our people had to flee overseas to better themselves wherever and whenever migration opportunities have been available?

If we have so much potential for development, why are we never able to actualize it save for short periods of time?

If we have so much potential for development, why are we still a have-not, hand-to-mouth country?

If we have so much potential for development, why do so many of the foreign investors turn out to be crooks and scamps?

***

This is the 45th in a series of essays on the folly of having built Argyle International Airport.

My other AIA essays are listed 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. 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. Why Qatar? Why St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
    29. Did the IMF drink the Comrade’s Kool-Aid?
    30. Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
    31. ‘If I come, you will build it’: Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle Airport
    32. Urban lessons for Argyle International Airport
    33. Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
    34. No ticky, No washy — Argyle-Style
    35. We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
    36. Hotel Saint Vincent
    37. Why St. Vincent Island has so few tourists 
    38. Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
    39. Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
    40. St. Vincent’s cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
    41. Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
    42. Cuba’s tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
    43. What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
    44. Not all Argyle Airport critics are ‘internet crazies’

 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 news.iwitness@gmail.com.

11 replies on “The media’s take on the opening of Argyle Airport”

    1. Yes, I am really certain of this.

      This is true even of the middle class, many of whose members live precariously from one pay check to another while mired in debt. Indeed, the net worth of many (how much they own vs. how much they owe) is much lower than most debt adverse poor people who also live hand-to-mouth.

      Just check out the long lines on the second floor of Courts where instalment purchasers barely have enough to pay their bi-weeky debts while being gouged by high interest rates. So why don’t they just pay cash and save at least 10 percent up front plus all the interest charges? Because they don’t have the cash to do so. This is a classic example of a hand to mouth existence.

      If we are not hand to mouth here in this poor country, then what do you say about millions of working and middle class people in rich, rich America and Canada so deeply in debt that many nearing retirement age are saying that they can’t possibly retire because they have no retirement savings and couldn’t survive on their government pensions?

      Jeannine, in St. Vincent, like North America, many people are rich in income but poor in wealth because they are spendthrifts.

      As for our poor masses, their main food items are grade B chicken and rice or small fish, which they eat ever day because beef, pork, mutton, goat, and big fish ($EC 8.00 a pound) are beyond their means.

      And unlike North America, where food is relatively cheap, the biggest budgetary expenditure of poor and working class people in SVG is foodstuff. Thank God for the Syrians that clothing is so cheap!

      Jeannine, please don’t be fooled by the smiling photos of our rotund and jolly Prime Minister — for most Vincentians this is a hand-to-mouth country.

      And don’t fooled by the images of obese Vincies (mainly female) strutting up and down in skin tight clothes as if they had any kind of attractive body-line. This is a result of a high calorie diet (the rice and fatty chicken again) largely rooted in the greater expense of buying healthy local fruits and vegetables.

  1. It now appears that Ralph and some SVG news media are laying the ground to blame Vincentians at home and abroad for the failure to attract tourists to SVG. Why don’t ask get the council generals in NY, EU and Toronto to start raising funds to invest in businesses in SVG?
    Better still why don’t supporters of AIA, “put their money where their mouths are”. They wanted it and now they have it so it up to them to use it. Or they can start telling folks how, when, where and why there are opportunities for them to invest.
    Unlike the Grenadines mainland SVG has no attraction to encourage visitors or tourists. Ironically, the tourists to the Grenadines are yachters who don’t stay at hotels, so building hotels will not attract these tourists.
    One writer had several ideas for investors, but folks have to see tourist coming to SVG first to decide if it’s worth it. No one can and should blame them to adopt the attitude of “wait and see” before they put their hard earned cash into a potential sink hole.
    I’d love to flight directly to SVG, but I realize the pain Vincentians endured for the past 6 or 7 years during the construction. This is also not the end of their suffering because maintaining the airport and repaying the loans will ensure their suffering continues for many years. Hence there is nothing for me to rejoice about if people are hurting.

  2. My take is that you are going to ensure that your 50th. Article is likely going to be on the 14th of February , as a Valentine salute to the People of SVG . My hope is that your 50th. will be your
    last , but I seriously doubt that will happen . Whether One likes to Government or not , it is being pro active regarding progressing the Country .

    I recall the main Opposition Party claiming that the Government’s claim that it has spawned an
    Education Revolution in SVG , was & is false , I beg to differ , When the PM claims that after
    host Countries of various UWI Campuses , Students from the SVG are the next number of persons attending the UWI Campuses . Some of our Students even achieve high honours at the various Campuses at UWI .

    I am fully aware that many of those from SVG , may not have an opportunity to get jobs in SVG ,however the point is that they are being equipped to earn a decent living elsewhere in the Region , or out of the Region . The essential fact is that where ever they are employed they send Remittances back to SVG .

    In the Region , many Countries Economies are helped by these Remittances , that those whom are employed abroad send to their Relatives . Interestingly when the Government stated that what they were doing was an Education Revolution , the Opposition Party scoffed
    at the claim , I do not recall the Opposition Parties being critical these days .

  3. Dave from Toronto says:

    c. ben-david, you are much dumber than I thought. Congrats on your 45th piece of garbage – another one destined for the dump site.

    You claimed that I am, as you put it, “one party fanatic”. Well, either you are not reading my comments or you’re not comprehending. I will leave it up to intelligent readers to go back and review all of my earlier comments. I stated clearly that I have NO PARTY AFFILIATION. All my comments addressed the impact of SVG’s economic development from the operation of AIA.

    The treasonous remarks were in reference to your preaching of doom and gloom on the psyche of the youth of this nation. After 45 articles in this publication alone, along with hundreds of comments, it shows a willful disregard for the negative impact of your diartribe. You not only attacked AIA and the present government, but also the intelligence of the people of SVG. I remember in one exchange we had, after I commented that AIA will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the nation (paraphrased), you responded that the people of SVG have no entrepreneurial spirit to unleash (again, paraphrased). No real Vincy would make such a statement.

    With these garbage postings, you are essentially yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. Expending all this time and energy to argue whether AIA was worthwhile, even as it is about to open, is a sure sign of insanity or intellectual shortcoming; I’ll let you pick. Also, you still refuse to answer my question of what you would do with AIA now that it’s a week from being operational.

    Hence, I do stand by my earlier statement that what you are writing is treasonous and for your diabribe, YOU SHOULD BE LOOKED UP!!

    1. There you go again blaming the bearer of sad tidings for creating those sad tidings.

      If the airport fails, it would be because of people like me bad mouthing it, right?

      If our youth can’t find meaningful employment after completing their studies, it must be because my “preaching of doom and gloom” has destroyed their psyche, right?

      Arguing that telling the truth, as I see it, is the same as crying fire in a crowded theatre is an example the logical fallacy called “false analogy.” But for you, a meteorologist predicting a hurricane which then destroyed your home should be criminally charged for the willful destruction of your property.

      Better still, your “reasoning” sounds like I gave the airport “maljoe” (evil eye), a topic I will explore in a subsequent essay, citing your writings as a good example of our “blame the messenger” airport syndrome.

      Don’t you know that our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preached a message that a lot of people said was both blasphemous and treasonous, “crimes” for which he was crucified?

      Dave not-from Toronto, we will soon all be losers when this airport fails — not because I or most other patriotic Vincentians want it to fail — but because it is bound to fail since it was neither needed nor can it be afforded.

      As for your query, “… of what you would do with AIA now that it’s a week from being operational,” I have no power or influence to do anything. This doesn’t mean that I accept the view of the leader of the opposition that Argyle airport cannot be allowed to fail or is too big to fail, foolish statements which would force us to support this boondoggle until the second coming of our Lord and Saviour puts us out of our misery.

      1. Dave from Toronto says:

        Your response is of such low quality that it doesn’t deserve a response. I tried over and over to explain to you the value of infrastructure projects such as AIA in helping to jump the economy leading to jobs for our youth, etc., but you just don’t get it. Heck, even the politicians who opposed it are now on board.

        Your analogies just don’t make sense. Forget your nonsense about the pending storm. You keep arguing that we should not build AIA. However, I keep reminding you that the airport has already been built. You should go to Argyle to see it for yourself. I did when I was home last summer.

        Let me pose the question again! Can you, the guy with all the answers, tell us what should be done with the airport now that it has been constructed. Forget that argument about whether or not it should have been built. Maybe, you find multiple choice questions easier. Should we a) Let it sit there and rot? b) Dismantle it? c) Use it for something else and if so, what? d) Operate it and put forth best efforts to make sure it succeeds.

        Everyone is waiting for your answer.

      2. Dave, d) is the only option because the Comrade will quickly bull-doze Arnos Vale airport to ensure there is no retreat when Argyle fails. But all our efforts to make sure AIA succeeds will be to no avail as none of its economic promises are fulfilled.

        At the end the day — really years from now — the history that you reject would show that building AIA was the worst economically-based political decision in the Caribbean next to the 1959 Cuban socialist revolution.

    2. If I can interject between you two:
      I really appreciate the information from C. ben. Most people seem to not have the courage to state the truth as they see it. You do not have to agree with everything. If he did say they have no entrepreneurial spirit, I would say that the government and society has very little of such spirit because the government insures discourages it. Consider a country that has to import virtually everything and nevertheless has astronomical Customs Duty charges on machines and other items that build the country. We have some of the highest taxes and governmental fees in the world. If a poor person goes to pick up a package with an item of no value, Customs charges a minimum of 5.$ regardless. Subjecting a nation to financial misery is not “love”. How can a poor entrepreneur with a great idea get started with such odds working against them? Ralph puts a brick wall in front of the less fortunate letting them know that there place is to get free lumber as long as they vote correctly, but not to conduct business.

      1. Dave from Toronto says:

        c. b-david,

        You are still skirting the question. Don’t frame the answer under the context of the ETJ being torn down and being left with no other option.

        Let’s say that the PM came to you and asked you the very question that I did. Now, the decision is yours. What would you do? You still have the option of continuing to use ETJ. We are all waiting for your answer. Let’s hear it.

  4. Wow! I can’t believe all the hate-filled comments to a guy that has an opinion. The info seems very good to me. I am sure we all hope the airport works, but….

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