By C ben-David
This is the last of five essays where I put the pieces of our cleverly conceived and executed Argyle International Airport (AIA) puzzle on St. Vincent Island (SVI) together by explaining their real purpose.
As I have repeatedly stated, in mathematics, the sciences, and logic, the simplest and most direct explanation that accounts for all the facts is always the best. That’s why my axiom (self-evident truth) that, “SVI has little developmental potential” and its corollary (a statement that follows with little or no proof required from an already accepted or proven statement) that, “The construction of an international airport would not boast our mainland tourism potential (because we have so little tourism potential on the big island)” better account for otherwise inexplicable AIA facts and issues than does the prevailing neo-liberal unimpeachable assumption that “St. Vincent has lots of potential” and its corollary – as enunciated by the Honourable Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves — that, “Our country’s [mainland] tourism potential would not be fully realised unless we build an international airport.”
Perhaps the best example of this clash of axioms is the politically biased September 27, 2016 Stewart Engineering report which claimed that, “The several missed completion dates repeatedly announced by the IADC [International Argyle Development Company] since 2011 is symptomatic of gross mismanagement and incompetence.” But if this were true – if unintentional ineptitude and unfortunate maladministration were the root causes of the delays — this would lead to even more puzzling questions.
Why didn’t the Prime Minister simply replace those responsible for the incompetence years ago, starting with Dr. Rudy Matthias, the CEO of the International Argyle Development Company (IADC), but also including other bureaucrats? The facile explanation that is often heard is that our quo quid pro Prime Minister is loyal to those loyal to him, that he takes care of his people come hell or high water. But this need not have precluded him from shuffling nincompoops to other government positions where they could do less harm, an everyday occurrence in the civil service around the world under similar circumstances.
Another more general theory is that, like lots of politicians, Dr. Gonsalves needs to surround himself with sycophants eager to stroke his prodigious ego. Yes, our Prime Minister does indeed have an outsized sense of self-importance for a “simple country lawyer,” as he self-disparagingly but disingenuously likes to call himself, leading an inconsequential little country few outside the region have ever heard of, but this reasoning fails to answer why these bootlickers always turn out to be pathetic losers when he could have selected halfway competent people more than happy to flatter him at every twist and turn.
The simple fact is (remember that the simpler the explanation that generates the most credible knowledge, the better) that putting inexperienced and barely competent persons in charge of the IADC and the tourism authority was just another masterstroke to ensure that the project and its various components perfectly complemented our five-year election cycle while deflecting blame for the project’s tardiness and other shortcomings on underlings.
Even if this particular assertion is false, unless most of those I have made in the last few essays and elsewhere are generally correct, Dr. Gonsalves has to be a bumbling political buffoon and economic illiterate, something his harshest credible critics (not the cyberspace intellectual dunces the Comrade has rightly labelled “Internet crazies” or the simpletons who daily prattle on Nice Radio) could never call the second longest serving democratically-elected prime minister in the Commonwealth of Nations, a man deserving the appellation “the brightest prime minister in the Caribbean,” if only because his brightness includes the ability to fully understand and manipulate what Sir James F. Mitchell correctly termed the “breadfruit mentality” of our people better than any other current leader in the region.
In short, the first axiom and corollary conclude that the AIA project is, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” (to quote Winston Churchill) while the second set say that the straightforward key to solving the puzzle is to understand the nature, sources, and continuity of political power in backward developing countries like our own.
To sum up: my hypothesis, rooted in my basic assumption about our potential for development as enunciated in my very first AIA essay posted three years ago, has always been that:
“None of these and other essential prerequisites [such a feasibility study] for a ‘real’ airport were needed because the AIA has always been an economic mirage meant to draw our gullible people to the polling booth via a New Jerusalem by the sea. A more brilliant Machiavellian masterstroke the Caribbean political world has never seen” (see essay number 1)!
This masterstroke also explains why even those who have often accepted my observations and analyses in previous essays have nevertheless argued:
“Regardless of whether or not the decision to build the airport was correct, it’s now a useless argument. It’s too late to debate…. So, let’s stop playing politics. AIA belong to the people of SVG. Let’s now make good use of it” (Dave-from-Toronto).
Apart from the fact that that there are thousands of irreversibly failed government projects all around the world that nominally belong to the people but were constructed solely to keep the ruling regime in power, so entrenched are these politically-rooted folk axioms that every hopeless failure must be turned into a success.
This is why patriotic Jomo Thomas, content to occasionally challenge his own party by citing a few examples of alleged oppression, evils of capitalism, “selfish individualism,” exploitation, and imperialism in his weekly newspaper column, would never be able to renounce his House of Assembly speaker sinecure and demand an immediate and full disclosure of the many carefully hidden AIA issues, including an independent line-item audit of its financing and expenditure, if only because this would be a treacherous renunciation of Dave-from-Toronto’s assertion that it is, “time to pull together and make the airport a success.”
Still, perhaps his most prescient observation, if stripped of its silly Marxist rhetoric, is that: “Barring a major oil or mineral find, St Vincent and the Grenadines will remain a poor underdeveloped country decades from now” (http://thevincentian.com/will-st-vincent-and-the-grenadines-ever-develop-p3217-110.htm ). Truer words were never written, their authority enhanced because they were penned in 2007, years before Comrade Jomo hopped on the ULP gravy train.
One final observation: the bogus ceremonial opening of the airport on Valentine’s Day 2017 seems to have been too contrived to be anything less than a political rally for an early election call because the longer the interval between partial operation with only inter-island air trips and a few international non-stop flights here and there, compounded by meagre mainland hotel and resort development, the greater the recognition that this airport adventure has been a charade from day one.
And what if there were still only one Air Canada flight a week during the winter holiday season supplemented by the odd Sunwing charter from Toronto on the eve of an early snap election? This would simply confirm the explanatory utility of my two hypotheses: “Not to worry, comrades,” our cunning leader would proclaim to his political base of benighted and guileless followers, “Rome wasn’t built in a day and this airport will be here for an eternity. Labour love!”
Five in a row, anyone?
This is the 63rd 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
- Explaining Argyle airport: A clash of axioms
- Questions and answers about the Argyle airport puzzle
- More questions and answers about the Argyle airport puzzle
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].