By C ben-David
Apart from juvenile argumentum ad hominem logical fallacy attacks impugning my motives, character, nationality, patriotism, and sanity, those who have taken issue with the contents of my Argyle International Airport articles (see essays listed below) have repeatedly raised the same three criticisms: (1) Why have you been so negative about the country’s tourism prospects? (2) Why did you jump in so late in the game – nine years after the Prime Minister’s 2005 announcement that he was going to build Argyle International Airport (AIA) — to damn the project? and (3) What alternatives to the government’s tourism strategy rooted in the completion of AIA are you able to offer?
Conversely, except for a few trivial errors, my facts and interpretations have received only one credible, albeit facile, counter: only time will tell whether AIA was worth building.
As for the first criticism, my essays were not “negative” in the sense of damning the airport project on spurious or propagandist grounds. To be sure, I have clearly stated that I believe AIA was conceived and constructed for political gain rather than economic advancement, a good a reason to be “negative” or cynical about public policy decisions in SVG as anywhere else in the world. Moreover, being “negative” about St. Vincent Island’s (SVI) mass tourism prospects is to realistically and objectively recognize the paucity of desirable visitor attractions on the mainland compared to hundreds of competing worldwide destinations. On the other hand, though a mainlander, I have been positively exuberant about the present and future prospects of tourist development in our enchanting Grenadines, which negates any argument of being unfairly negative about our country as a whole.
The second criticism is even easier to address. I simply wasn’t paying much attention to the construction of AIA between 2005 and 2014, only awakened from my intellectual slumber when I read a brilliant essay by respected engineer Herbert “Haz” Samuel (http://www.iwnsvg.com/2014/09/09/a-story-worth-telling-a-review-of-the-argyle-international-airport-project/ ) that made my blood boil and stirred me to write my first essay which lead to a second piece, then a third, and so on, as my interest and research deepened.
Answering the third criticism is more difficult although I could simply dismiss it by referring to my previous assertion, repeatedly made, that SVI has little developmental potential. In other words, asking me, “So, what would you have done instead?” or “So, where do we go from here?” as several critics have done, is what is called a “loaded question” logical fallacy because it contains the groundless assumption that there are actually things we could do on the mainland to become a far wealthier nation. Demanding that I spell these out is akin to asking me, “So, when did you stop beating your wife?” which illogically (and, in my case, falsely) claims that I have rained licks on her in the past.
Similarly, my reply to those who have said that being against AIA is being against the development of our tourist industry are guilty of the related “either-or” logical fallacy: if you are not tall, you must be short; if you are not rich, you must be poor.
Rather than addressing all the logical fallacies of my adversaries, I offer instead a retrospective alternative to the question, “So, where do we go from here?” by reluctantly addressing the “So, what would you have done instead?” rebuke and accompanying forceful reminder that what is done – the construction of AIA — can never be undone with the counter-argument that the study of the past carries important lessons for the future. To be sure, this is a tepid argument in our little country because we learned nothing from other failed projects such as the Kingstown central market, the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard, and, most importantly, in this case, the James F. Mitchell International Airport.
Ironically and indirectly, my critics also include the hapless leadership of the New Democratic Party (NDP) who flip-flopped on their longstanding opposition to AIA’s construction on the eve of the 2010 election after belatedly realizing that most of our people badly wanted a new airport. This about-face, actually a full bore retreat, is clearly seen in the Party’s 2015 election manifesto, only just deleted from its Internet site, which promised that, “… we have had discussions with several interested investors and can now state that … [a] major international construction group will partner with the NDP to finally get the Argyle Airport into a state of readiness … [and] A major international development group will build a 1,000 unit integrated residential and hotel resort complex on St. Vincent,” presumably at Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope because there is no other site on the mainland for a project that would have made the Pace Developments Inc. enterprise look like small change.
Suddenly, in October 2016 there was yet another about-face and retreat when the NDP rebranded itself as ultra-nationalistic environmentalists by strongly opposed the sale of a bit of land to Pace at the same Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope site previously earmarked for their own proposed resort development requiring the alienation to foreigners of at least three times the amount of precious Crown land (see essay number 35).
Unlike the flat-footed and hypocritical NDP, I have no good answers to the issue of rescuing our nation from the money-sucker AIA has been since its conception, a financial drain that will never end. This is because we are stuck with this boondoggle till Kingdom come and the Rapture, if only because the Prime Minister will do what any embattled general does as doomsday appears on the horizon: figuratively burn all his bridges behind him by literally bulldozing E. T. Joshua International Airport to the ground to halt any retreat from the compulsory use of AIA. Though this might make good sense for his political legacy, even a negative one, without Arnos Vale as a fallback, we would be slowly but painfully devoured by the monster at Argyle as it sucks the lifeblood out of our economy.
In short, it is much easier to give a hypothetical “what if” answer – what could we have done instead of building AIA — rather than a “where do we go from here” reply to our AIA dilemma. This may be done by suggesting how the monies bad-spent on AIA could have been more productively used elsewhere, an examination which requires understanding the simple economic concept called “opportunity cost,” a notion I have already briefly described (see essay 15).
The opportunity cost of an economic choice — in this case, the decision to build AIA with borrowed funds, donated monies, in-kind labour and material contributions, and the sale of Crown lands as opposed to doing different things with the same cash and similar inputs — is the net comparative value of the best forgone alternative(s).
For example, if the net revenue of building AIA (all direct and allied costs, including loan interest payments, minus spin-off tourism and allied multiplier benefits) were a hypothetical $EC 50 million per year while the comparable gain using the same financial resources on alternative ventures were $EC 75 million per year, the opportunity cost – the financial benefit forgone of building AIA — would be $EC 25 million per annum.
This is a truly an Alice-in-Wonderland example. In the real world of cutthroat international hospitality competition, all I have written in these essays suggests that AIA is doomed to yield our economy a net annual revenue loss of tens of millions of dollars which, in turn, would be dwarfed by the opportunity cost of more credible but forgone alternative projects.
So, regardless of the fact that we are stuck with AIA, what could we have done instead with the same resources? This is the subject of my next essay.
This is the 64th 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
- Explaining Argyle Airport: Concluding remarks
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].