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Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Minister of Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves, used his speech at Tuesday’s rally in celebration of the opening of Argyle International Airport to rally Vincentians in support of the most expensive piece of public infrastructure in the nation’s history.

“If we work together to make this airport a success, it will be impossible to separate it from the increased economic growth and development that await us,” he told the thousand gathered in Argyle, where commercial flights, both regional and international, landed at the airport for the first time.

“As a vulnerable, open, small island economy in a new era of globalisation, a quality international airport is an essential cornerstone of any modern developmental aspiration,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of sustainable development.

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“Today, as the minister with responsibility for economic planning, I am acutely aware of this airport’s potential to act as a force multiplier in our developmental efforts. Tourism, agriculture, services, and foreign investment all stand to benefit from the further integration of St. Vincent and the Grenadines into the global economy, as this airport will eventually facilitate.”

He said that while in many countries an international airport is just a place to catch a flight, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is “a monument to Vincentian ingenuity, hard work and sacrifice.

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“It is both a lesson and a teacher. It is a brick and mortar manifestation of the potential for greatness that resides in the breast of every citizen,” he said, adding that a typical young New Yorker or Trinidadian would shrug disinterestedly if asked how their international airports came into being.

“Ask a Vincy — today, tomorrow, or generations hence — and they will proudly tell a thousand tales of toil and triumph,” said Gonsalves, who spoke of his “insignificant” contribution to the project — first, as a lawyer, negotiating the purchase and relocation of Argyle residents and advising the International Airport Development Company, and then, as an ambassador and Minister of Foreign Affairs, rallying nations to the cause and traveling the world in search of support.

Gonsalves used his speech to celebrate his father, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party administration built the airport.

He said the capacity to translate vision into reality is the distinguishing characteristic of a true leader.

“And when that leader’s vision allows him to see the invisible, and inspire the impossible, present and future generations are immeasurably enriched. Every Vincentian – home and abroad, irrespective of political persuasion – knows in their bones that the vision and leadership of one singular individual took our collective dream and turned it into a tangible truth,” Gonsalves said.

He noted that many persons doubted that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves could deliver on his promise of an international airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Even after delivering a jetport in Canouan, a bridge across the Rabbaca Dry River, and revolutions in housing and education, there were still many doubters among the believers. Even when the mountains became memories, and the ranks of the believers swelled, some scribes and naysayers continued to unleash tsunamis of criticism and predictions of failure, while scoffing at his heroic efforts,” Gonsalves said.

A woman holds a photograph of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves at Tuesday’s rally. (iWN photo)

He told the gathering, which included regional and international heads of state and government and other dignitaries that “patience and perseverance overcame every struggle and setback.

“This project taught us the truth in the old adage, that without a struggle, there can be no progress. Progress came incrementally, but inexorably; one truckload of dirt at a time. And we persevered, unflaggingly confident in that knowledge that the seeds we sowed would be reaped in due season. The stones thrown by critics were crushed to pave a 9,000-foot runway. The bricks hurled by naysayers were used to build the most beautiful terminal building in the Caribbean,” Gonsalves said.

The Argyle International Airport was constructed at a cost of EC$700 million, including EC$400 million in debt, according to government figures.

It boasts a runway that is 9,000 feet long and 150 feet wide and the terminal building has been designed to process 1.5 million passengers annually.

The project was completed six years behind schedule, and at almost double the price tag of when it was first announced in 2005.

Gonsalves said the airport was built during the worst global recession in living memory.

“It was funded in in era of regional job cuts, late salaries and wage freezes. It was equipped while the IMF (International Monetary Fund) was opening branch offices and imposing austerity across our Caribbean capitals. Its completion has not come without cost; from the financial to the environmental to precious human life. We have missed deadlines and tried patience. But while the tree of patience grows in bitter soil, it bears the sweetest fruit. Today, we savour that fruit, before we begin work anew to make this Airport an operational success,” he said.

He said that in the “future struggles to make this airport work for the benefit of all Vincentians, the critics will re-emerge to play on the basest elements of the human spirit. Bitterness and shame may banish them temporarily from our front pages, but there will be days — not today, but not far off — when the scoffers and doubting Thomases emerge from their dark caves of pessimism to fan the opportunistic embers of division or attempt to impose their own defeatism and inferiority complexes on the national psyche. We must stop them, and we must remind them that those who lack the courage to pursue their dreams should get out of the way of those who seize the day.”

Tuesday’s rally was the second of two events to mark the opening of the airport.

The airport was commissioned on Monday with a flag raising ceremony that heard addresses from Prime Minister Gonsalves and other officials.

The airport began operating Tuesday morning with LIAT making the first commercial departure, followed shortly after by a chartered Dynamic Airways flight from New York as the first international arrival.

There was also a Sunwing chartered flight from Toronto, Canada, and a Caribbean Airlines charter from New York.

There have been no announcements yet, by international carriers to make regularly scheduled flights to Argyle.

9 replies on “Argyle’s success will lead to ‘increased economic growth’ — Camillo”

  1. A load of rhetorical crap.

    1. Whether “… a quality international airport is an essential cornerstone of any modern developmental aspiration” depends on the existing developmental potentials. This airport was built on the assumption that our mainland has the potential to attract enough new international tourists to make it a success. Since this assumption is false, the “developmental aspiration” is groundless.

    2. At the end of the day, it is absolutely true that the “international airport is just a place to catch a flight,” unless, as this one has shown, it was built for reasons other than “to catch a flight,” namely to impress the people with the “miraculous” power of the leadership in order to gain their votes in the next election.

    3. I never for a moment doubted nor written that the airport could be built. My doubt has always been that we neither needed or could afford to support this airport. This was never based on partisan politics, only on my dread that AIA would sink us in a sea of debt and false promises.

    4. Yes, I am a chronic AIA critic but I am still here loud and clear in the sunlight and don’t have to re-emerge from any “dark cave” of pessimism, defeatism, opportunism, and division based on an inferiority complex. Unlike, Camillo, I am a proud, independent, and patriotic son of the soil, not some foreign-born carpetbagger being dragged to the prime ministership on his father’s coattails.

    It is not me who must be stopped but those who have sold us a bunch of empty dreams destined to end with one horrid nightmare of crashed hopes and lost opportunities.

    A lot of flatulent rhetoric could never be a substitute for sound public policy decisions with real potential for raising our level of living and making us genuinely proud of our accomplishments.

    1. Dave from Toronto says:


      There you go again with your usual crap. Why can’t you, for one day, stop to celebrate this major milestone in the nation’s economic history?!

      I can’t wait for you to head to AIA on your next trip, standing in line at check-in in the very airport that you hated so much. I would not be surprised if you are already banned from entering. Better get used to taking the boat.

      By the way, you are still skirting the question I asked a few days ago.. 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 with AIA? Options include: status quo/demolish/convert to something else/let it rot. You still have the option of continuing to use ETJ since it’s still standing. We are all waiting for your answer. Let’s hear it.

  2. All of the hype is going to waste unless they call an election soon, and with the changeover in the NDP it is no longer necessary. We can now expect that the next years until the election is going to be filled with “prosperity is just around the corner”. Just as we have heard for the past several years that “the airport is going to open soon.” The world should have learned how politicians operate after they heard about the torpedos in the gulf of Tonkin, Saddams Weapons of mass destruction, Hillary has 80% of the vote or that Russia stole the Crimea. Now we hear SVG will be rich!

    1. The next election is just around the corner if the Central Leeward election petition issue is allowed to go to trial because Ralph wouldn’t take the chance of losing the case which would see an election in Central Leeward called which he would likely lose this time. So depending on the verdict in the next few weeks in St. Lucia, we may have a new national election fought by the ULP on the supposed need for a new mandate following the completion of AIA. If it takes place, this election would be end of April-early May.

      Who would win? Most likely the ULP which would have to win two seats they lost last time, no easy but doable because the party has very deep pockets, namely yours and mine as taxpayers, plus the halo of the AIA “miracle.”

      1. I agree it is possible, as you put it. With all of our money controlled by the ULP, they would also have to use it to keep the population “drunk” on Argyle rum long enough to get to the election….a few more charter flights? The raise in taxes occurred just before the opening of the airport, knowing that the euphoria of Argyle rum would distract or “wag the dog” from the ever-increasing burden of more taxation to pay for all the loans that keep the country going because of the terrible economic policy.

  3. The ULP should call on its supporters to start investing in SVG. Don’t ask the NDP to get involve at this stage because many believe in the “wait and see” attitude before they put out any money.
    Camillo should stop counting his chickens before they are hatched. What is there on mainland SVG to attract tourist on a weekly or monthly basis? This is a question that will plague AIA success for some time. These are just basic questions and observations of folks with different opinions. Folks are not naysayers, but rather people with different perspectives about AIA success.
    I believe the government should start pointing out business advantages so folks can take a serious look at investing. It’s imperative it also start the process of attracting tourist to the mainland as an incentive. Even one 747 a day can help, as long as the final destination is not Guyana. I haven’t seen the figures for the number of passengers from Canada and the US. I looked at a video and counted less than 30 passengers arriving from the US. This is what folks have been blogging about since the construction started. That’s not being against the airport, but rather facing facts.
    The airport looks great but if it operates in the red, then it fits the ULP colour.

    1. Most foreign investors will not touch the mainland and not because there is nothing to do on the mainland. I, personally like the mainland in many ways better than the Grenadines. In my opinion, in the Grenadines all there is to do is swim and lay in the sun. I would rather see the vegetation of the mainland. The problem with the mainland is that it is too dangerous. The biggest occupations seem to be rape, theft and murder; not to mention the dirty stinking mess that is Kingstown. Most Vincentians are great people but the higher-than-normal amount of criminals and con-artists particularly on the mainland are a real turn-off. Then we can get to the bad roads… I guess we can make a list or reasons why not to come to the mainland if we really think about it.
      Another reason why investors do not want to come here is our terrible economics! Ralph thinks that investors want to come to a country that has to import everything and yet has some of the world’s highest Customs tax. We also have one of the world’s highest Corporate tax, added to many other problems including a bad work ethic in many or the people. Investing anywhere in SVG is a hard sell. Only in Tourism is there often some tax breaks.

  4. Dave from Toronto says:


    After reading your comments, I’m still throwing up in the bathroom. In point 4, I think you were describing yourself….”dark cave” of pessimism, defeatism, opportunism and division…. For a moment, I thought your had posted your CV.

    However, I started scratching my head after reading further that “I’m a proud, independent and patriotic son of the soil”. Are you kidding me?! What did you smoke today? Even you don’t that!

Comments closed.