Friday, 18 August 2017 11:21:21 (AST)
 

Opinion

Explaining Argyle airport on St. Vincent Island

Argyle International Airport. (iWN file photo)

By C. ben-David

The tourism sector has considerable potential for development” (Wikipedia entry for St. Vincent and the Grenadines [SVG]).

There is now greater pressure on us all … to ensure that the AIA [Argyle International Airport] realises its huge potential” (Renwick Rose, Searchlight newspaper, Feb. 21, 2017).

***

In the next five essays, I put the pieces of SVG’s AIA enigma together by explaining its real purpose now that the facility is finally operating, albeit almost exclusively as a regional facility.

There is a fundamental and, by definition, irrefutable assumption (in scientific and philosophical terms called an axiom — a self-evident truth) that has long formed the foundation of both public opinion and government policy in SVG: “St. Vincent Island [SVI] has lots of potential.”

As applied to the tourist sector, this indisputable assertion (not to be confused with a conjecture or hypothesis) forms part of a larger free-market theoretical framework which states that poor countries like our own must reach out and sell or lease its resources – whether land (e.g., a minuscule piece of Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope), the manual and mental labour of its people, or anything else of value — to international capitalism so as to better its economic condition, a position bizarrely held even by an unrepentant nationalistic Marxist dinosaur like Renwick Rose. More specifically, the construction of AIA was conceived on the back of an irreducible and unimpeachable premise, long shared by most Vincentians, and best articulated by the Prime Minister, the Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves, in an “historic” Aug. 8, 2005 speech:

Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport.

The underlying assumption (axiom) that “St. Vincent has lots of potential” is the indisputable foundation upon which the building of AIA took place. Without that axiomatic foundation, the resultant corollary (i.e., direct or natural consequence of the axiom) that Gonsalves would have us believe necessarily follows from it — the need to construct AIA — would be baseless.

Who but a foolish, unpatriotic, or traitorous citizen (as I have been repeatedly labelled) or some foreign enemy of the state (which I have also been called) could possibly disagree with the contention that SVI has lots of potential? Hence, its axiomatic status.

This incontestable first principle — “SVI has lots of potential” — even forms the basis for every political manifesto ever advanced by any party in SVG. It has been enunciated in a general way and to describe our tourism potential, as in the NDP View column titled “The NDP Will Make Tourism Work” (The Vincentian newspaper, April 13, 2017) that, “The inability of the ULP regime to develop our full tourism potential is due to ineffective marketing, inadequate infrastructure, the lack of strategic planning, and the lack of specialized personnel in the tourism industry,” a statement unequivocally suggesting that we have lots of tourism potential on the mainland that could be actualized with better organization.

This foundational axiom has been applied not only to tourism, as shown in both the Prime Minister’s and NDP statements, but to agriculture, offshore banking, information technology, and export manufacturing, in short, to every development option we have ever tried, often in vain or for a short time, to lift ourselves out of poverty.

The best recent example of the lack of credible corollaries generated by the “SVI has lots of potential” axiom are the various half-baked schemes for the development of the Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope area not premised on the building of resorts and hotels by overseas developers. These projects include: a national stadium; a relocation there of our annual Carnival; a multi-purpose auditorium or arena; a mega cruise-ship berth; a Vinci version of Disneyland; a convention centre; a museum and a hall of fame; and an entertainment, amusement or sports complex.

None of these projects, all proposed by persons with no relevant expertise or financial resources who nonetheless vociferously opposed the sale of a few acres of land at Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope to foreigners, are realistic because no SVG government could ever begin to fund or maintain them, no private entity (local or foreign) would ever notice them on business grounds alone, and no extra-Caribbean development agency would ever fund them. For political reasons, a foreign government might be seduced to assist with the building of, say, a multi-purpose stadium, as occurred in Dominica which was the lucky recipient in 2007 of a 12,000-seat facility on the outskirts of the capital from mainland China, but such massive forms of help are becoming increasing rare without some corresponding financial or other gain to the donor.

The more critical issue is that none of these projects would ever be self-sustaining, let alone capable of generating any value-added economic benefits, which is why their discussion would never reach beyond our rum shops, street corners, and media. Why not? Because they are based on a pie-in-the-sky axiom — “St. Vincent has lots of potential” — that does not reflect our real-world opportunities and constraints.

More important than debunking speculative examples offered by others, is the question of whether the baseline axiom itself can at least be shaken on theoretical and other grounds. This may well be consequential because axioms can never be proven false as such: by definition, that’s not the meaning of axioms. It is simply a self-evident and unchallengeable truth for nearly all Vincentians that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). End of argument.

Although you can’t prove a fundamental assumption to be false — because it’s not meant to be proven true or false but to serve as the starting point for further elaboration or the generation of other assumptions or ideas — it can nevertheless be demonstrated not to yield credible knowledge. For example, it is difficult to argue that “St. Vincent has lots of potential” when such a huge portion of our population – higher than most other countries in the world for nearly 200 years – has fled to other lands, temporarily or permanently, since the end of slavery in 1838 to earn a good living because of limited opportunities to do so at home. Who, for example, could deny that the mainland would soon become massively depopulated if Great Britain, America, and Canada allowed unfettered emigration to our people. (Paradoxically, some of the strongest proponents of the “St. Vincent has lots of potential” axiom are diaspora residents which may explain why many of them eventually return home to invest their hard-won fortunes in incongruous ventures that more often than not end in failure.)

It is also silly to propose unrealistic long-term solutions to problems that have no realistic expectation of success, the best proof being our inability to attract legitimate investors — rather than swindlers — from abroad for any large-scale mainland projects save in certain select areas like sugar cane cultivation during the first few decades of British colonialism, albeit on the back of slavery, and the corporate banking, insurance, export manufacturing, telecommunications, and import retailing sectors over the past 100 years.

Likewise, if “St. Vincent has lots of potential” in the form of gifted legal minds, why does the Prime Minister habitually secure foreign counsel to litigate either his own or the nation’s juridical disputes? Why does the same man and his family nearly always seek medical treatment in other lands if our homegrown healthcare system has so much potential to heal the afflicted?

Questions like these make it necessary to offer a counter-axiom, together with a counter-corollary, an issue dealt with in my next essay.

***

This is the 59th in a series of essays on the AIA folly. 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’
  45. The media’s take on the opening of Argyle Airport
  46. Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle Airport
  47. Our Argyle International Airport ‘veritable miracle’
  48. From ‘poppy show’ to campaign rally: The Argyle Airport opening
  49. St. Vincent’s 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
  50. Going forward or marching in place? Lessons for Argyle airport
  51. The Visible Hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
  52. St. Vincent Island doesn’t need any more hotel rooms
  53. Lessons from St Lucia and Grenada for AIA
  54. Is Air Canada also a ‘huge game-changer’ for AIA?
  55. St. Vincent’s mainland tourist attractions
  56. How St. Vincent’s tourist attractions stack up lessons for AIA
  57. Lessons from Guyana for AIA
  58. The world’s best tourist islands: Lessons for AIA

IWN Conversations

7 thoughts on “Explaining Argyle airport on St. Vincent Island

  1. J James says:

    “Likewise, if St. Vincent has lots of potential in the form of gifted legal minds, why does the Prime Minister habitually secure foreign counsel to litigate either his own or the nation’s juridical disputes? Why does the same man and his family nearly always seek medical treatment in other lands if our homegrown healthcare system has so much potential to heal the afflicted?”

    It has been a long time since I could agree with 90% of one of your columned pieces, C. Ben-David. I look forward to both the counter-axiom and the counter-corollary.

    By the way, I consider this piece both scholarly and painstaking. This one did not fly over my head and merge with the twilight…lol!

  2. G.G says:

    There can be no clearer demonstration of gross redundancy. C. Ben-David, what ever you present to the public is easily characterize as the scribblings of someone who is philosophically opposed to the AIA. All your essays by your own admission comes to one conclusion, anti AIA. Normal persons will not take such an inordinately long time to make the same point over & over in different ways.

  3. David why are you writing this rubbish for, is it for your own entertainment, because only 2% of Vincentians will know the f… what your are talking about.

    We know, one axiom in Set Theory is that “Infinite sets exist”. This is not something that is definitely true or definitely false, and you can either assume that it is true and prove things from there or you can assume it is false and prove a strictly finite version of math.

    Either way is fine, it’s just that allowing infinite sets to exist gives more interesting math, so most mathematicians work with it as true. But there’s no outside thing that says we can’t do the opposite.

    Another example is the Parallel Postulate, we can either assume that it is true and get ordinary Euclidean Geometry, or we can assume that it is false and get Non-Euclidean Geometry. Neither is more right than the other, it’s just deciding which game you want to play by choosing the rules that you want to follow.

    • C. ben-David says:

      Peter, you well know that I am writing both for the two percent and to amuse myself. I have a deep curiosity about many things, an antipathy to established but groundless wisdom, and lots of time on my hands to flay at all manner of windmills.

      When Hillary was asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, he replied, “Because is was there.” When people ask me why I write about AIA, I rely, “Because it shouldn’t be there.”

  4. Lostpet says:

    For what it is worth I am one of those that really appreciate your essays. I am not from Saint Vincent and maybe that is why I cannot understand why so many demonize you for presenting facts as you see them. Vincentians may not think so but they are a over-nationalistic indoctrinated people. That is why it is easy to sell to them the idea that SVI “has lots of potential”. There is potential but it will not be seen until Vincentians stop voting for con-artist leaders that are out for themselves and not the country or it’s people.
    Vincentians can pick bananas but they can’t pick leaders.

  5. Propagandist crap of the first degree

    • C. ben-David says:

      Peter, the whole world knows that you turned beast on me after I began rejecting your outrageously unsubstantiated assertions about AIA, the Prime Minister, and many other things.

      Should I remind everyone how much you praised my submissions up to that point? For example, on January 28, 2015 you wrote that:

      “David a brilliant letter, may I congratulate you on bringing the truth to us in such a well researched, remarkable and well thought out letter/opinion. Thank you David lets have some more of your writings.”

      But now I am writing “propagandist crap.”

      Poor you.

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