By C. ben-David
I concluded my last essay (see essay number 59) with the observation that although seemingly unassailable truths (axioms) like “St. Vincent Island [SVI] has lots of potential” cannot be directly attacked because this would subvert their definition as self-evident verities, their corollaries (i.e., results that seem to naturally follow from them may still be challenged on theoretical and empirical grounds.
Unlike the Honourable Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ belief that Argyle International Airport (AIA) is necessary to meet our developmental potential based on the axiom-rooted corollary (direct or natural consequence of the axiom) that the mainland has lots of tourism potential, my counter-corollary logically and factually follows from my axiom. I further contend that both my foundational assumption (axiom) and corollary, both rooted in support for the capitalistic economic system also embraced by Dr. Gonsalves, better explain our current economic situation, especially the implications and complications of having constructed AIA:
AXIOM: The mainland of St. Vincent lost most of what little potential it had long ago.
COROLLARY: The construction of an international airport would not boast our mainland tourism potential (because we have so little tourism potential on the big island).
My axiom underpins our current economic condition as verified by our recent national ascendancy to lower middle-income status. Despite the widespread denial or ignorance of our past – yet another consequence of our retrogressive “education revolution” — there is little need to document the reason for this placement by detailing our easily discoverable economic history from first British settlement in 1763 to the present, except to note that:
(1) our only period of real prosperity (most of whose profits went overseas) was based on large-scale sugar production over several decades between the late 18th and early 19th century during the heinous slavery era;
(2) plantation-based export agriculture in which one export crop was replaced by a new or old one is long gone and could never be productively revived as much for political reasons (the fragmentation of the estates rooted in an economically dubious but voter-friendly policy of “land for the landless” and the near disappearance of preferential trade tariffs and quotas) as economic ones (even our former largest estates could never again be economical because of their tiny size by global mega-farm standards). The recent re-introduction of cocoa and coffee production, as welcome as it is from a small-scale job creation perspective, will do little to significantly raise our national level of prosperity;
(3) our lack of valuable natural resources like oil, gas, or precious minerals, economies of scale – our small land mass, tiny population of producers and consumers, and low level of labour saving mechanization – have always constrained our sustained development;
(4) our often mentioned low worker and mechanical productivity in both the public and private sectors, together with a combined unemployment and underemployment rate of over 40 per cent, have proven intractable;
(5) the annual seven-fold value of imports over exports constantly drains our economy of needed revenue;
(6) the age-old economic strategy called emigration – the single best example of our lack of economic potential – as a response to unemployment, low wages, and few business opportunities will always be a double-edged sword robbing us of our best and brightest while sustaining our lower middle-income economic status through the remittance of money and barrels of food and clothing from those abroad together with investments, including the many unsuccessful ones that still bring in much needed foreign exchange, from those who have returned home; and
(7) unsustainable government spending, dependence on external grants, and reckless borrowing from various public and private bodies at home and abroad have resulted in an EC$1.7 billion debt and an 80 per cent debt to GDP ratio (an increase from 58 per cent in 2001), features guaranteeing a continuation of the economic status quo, if not a fall down or off the economic ladder, when the grants dry up and the loans cannot be repaid, eventually putting us on heavy manners Greek-style and a quick drop back to our habitual lower income status.
The assumption that “we have lots of potential” does not support the sum total of these facts and interpretations.
As for my corollary versus the Prime Minister’s corollary that “Our country’s tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport,” I simply point to the content of my previous essays which, taken together, suggest that with the possible exception a few thousand more annual holiday visitors over the next several years — a number hardly sufficient to balance the costs of building and operating AIA — our meagre mainland tourism potential was realised decades ago.
Of course, there are other axioms rooted in other theoretical frameworks (paradigms), including the thoroughly discredited Marxist-Leninist one favoured by Jomo Thomas, arguably the most dangerous radical in the land who our increasingly capitalism-loving Prime Minister cunningly harnessed in the Speaker’s high chair in the House of Assembly where he could not lambaste government tourism policy (such as the low pay and poor working conditions of those employed in the hospitality sector, racial and class segregation in Canouan, and the sale of lands to foreigners at Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope that other misguided radicals and the hapless NDP party establishment also oppose) while still allowing him to engage in inconsequential rebellious preaching to the masses in his weekly column in the oldest but least popular newspaper in the land:
“We are in a bind… Where must we go? Where can we go? …. You think you know how [to empower the people for a better way of life]? Deliver. Make people’s lives better” (The Vincentian newspaper, October 7, 2016).
Though he comes close to supporting my axiom with these despondent words (and closer still with what he reveals in one of my later essays), Thomas’ prescription for healing what afflicts us is to parrot the facile socialist slogan, “Genuine Independence, People’s Ownership and Control,” that even our formerly radical Prime Minister long abandoned and which, if acted upon from his so-called “progressive” perspective, would surely lead us down the pauperizing totalitarian path to the former Soviet Union, Maoist-era China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela.
But there is more to this clash of paradigms and axioms than castigating loopy leftists like Comrade Jomo or dredging up what I have already pointed out surely argumentum ad infinitum to mainly deaf ears and addled minds in previous essays to counter the regnant argumentum ad populum.
In mathematics, the sciences, and logic, the simplest and most elegant explanation that accounts for all the facts is always preferred to those that don’t which is why my axiom and corollary better explain the facts surrounding AIA than does the mainstream neo-liberal one presented by Dr. Gonsalves or the Marxist one offered by Jomo Thomas.
I examine why this is so in my next essay.
This is the 60th in a series of essays on the AIA folly. My other AIA essays are listed below:
- Get ready for a November election!
- Lessons for Argyle Airport from Canada’s Montreal–Mirabel Int’l
- Lessons for Argyle Int’l Airport from the cruise industry
- Lessons from Target Canada for Argyle Int’l Airport
- Lessons from Trinidad & Tobago for Argyle Int’l Airport
- The Dark Side of Tourism: Lessons for Argyle Airport
- Why Argyle Won’t Fly: Lessons from Dominica
- Ken Boyea and the Phantom City at Arnos Vale
- Airport Envy Vincy-Style
- Fully realising our country’s tourism potential
- Airport without a cause
- The unnatural place for an international airport
- The Potemkin Folly at Argyle
- False patriotism and deceitful promises at Argyle
- Airport politics and betrayal Vincy-Style
- Phony airport completion election promises, Vincy-style
- Is Argyle Airport really a ‘huge game-changer for us?’
- Has the cat got your tongue, Prime Minister?
- More proof that Argyle won’t fly
- Our very own Vincentian cargo cult at Argyle
- The missing Argyle Airport feasibility studies
- The world’s four most amazing abandoned airports
- Farming, fishing, and foolish talk about Argyle International Airport
- Argyle Airport amateur hour
- Vincent’s place in the world of travel
- Investing in St. Vincent’s Tourism Industry
- The Argyle Airport prophecy: what the numbers say
- Why Qatar? Why St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
- Did the IMF drink the Comrade’s Kool-Aid?
- Foolish words about Argyle International Airport
- ‘If I come, you will build it’: Lessons from the Maldives for Argyle Airport
- Urban lessons for Argyle International Airport
- Who really lands at Arnos Vale?
- No ticky, No washy — Argyle-Style
- We have met the Vincentian tourism enemy and he is us
- Hotel Saint Vincent
- Why St. Vincent Island has so few tourists
- Why Bequia is a gem of the Antilles
- Why seeing is believing in the Caribbean tourism industry
- St. Vincent’s cruise ship numbers are much lower than we think
- Lessons from Barbados for Argyle Airport
- Cuba’s tourism rollercoaster: Lessons for Argyle Airport
- What the world teaches Black Sands Resort and Villas
- Not all Argyle Airport critics are ‘internet crazies’
- The media’s take on the opening of Argyle Airport
- Why Roraima Airways? Lessons for Argyle Airport
- Our Argyle International Airport ‘veritable miracle’
- From ‘poppy show’ to campaign rally: The Argyle Airport opening
- St. Vincent’s 2016 tourism numbers are nothing to brag about
- Going forward or marching in place? Lessons for Argyle airport
- The Visible Hand of Adam Smith at Argyle International Airport
- St. Vincent Island doesn’t need any more hotel rooms
- Lessons from St Lucia and Grenada for AIA
- Is Air Canada also a ‘huge game-changer’ for AIA?
- St. Vincent’s mainland tourist attractions
- How St. Vincent’s tourist attractions stack up lessons for AIA
- Lessons from Guyana for AIA
- The world’s best tourist islands: Lessons for AIA
- Explaining Argyle airport on St. Vincent Island
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 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].