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Letter: The SVG airport is operational – what next?

Dear Sir:

The magical thinking of build it and they will come to the Argyle International Airport (AIA) shows the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government’s total lack of a coherent policy. What is next for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) after the state sponsored red excursion? They think by building an international airport using all means necessary will guarantee economic viability for SVG.

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So I ask the question, why are there currently no direct regular commercial (not chartered) flights to and from the USA, Canada, or the UK to SVG? Didn’t the Tourism Authority CEO say American Airlines was ready to come? What’s the hold up?

Do you mean to tell the world you built an international airport with no scheduled direct commercial international flights from the USA, Canada, the UK, or for that matter anywhere outside the Caribbean region? Where are American Airlines, United, Delta, British Airways, and Air Canada? Let’s not forget some of the other airlines that were “aspirationally” to land at AIA, including Lufthansa, Air Berlin, Iberia, WestJet, Jet Blue, and Virgin Atlantic.

Such economic oddity seems to be the solution to all of the government’s problems. With arrogance they insist that the airport is the economic miracle growth pill to move SVG forward. Some years ago we were told, “We are on the cusp of an economic takeoff.”

However, they had no serious economic analysis behind this fiscal outlook. All one has to do is look at SVG’s economic growth since that pronouncement. Economic trends were highlighted by several years of negative and zero growth. During this period a ULP government minister told the nation that we had a budget for not creating jobs.

According to the latest budget projections, the ULP government will create 83 jobs in 2017. Seriously, with the airport operational in February 2017 we have only 83 total jobs projected by the ULP government for the year!

The miracle of the economic takeoff has flown right past SVG. Instead, what we have seen are high unemployment, increased taxation, and record numbers of murders in SVG. These are all signs of a depressed economy!

Is an operational AIA going to be an economic suicide pill? Has this already started? Departure taxes have increased from $40 to $100. Also the annual operating costs have increased from $7 million at E T Joshua to $20 or $25 million at AIA.

In 2008, in my letter entitled “And what if they lied to you?” I wrote, “Are the people and the government of SVG willing to subsidize any of the major carriers? Mind you, it is to the tune of several million dollars per year to leave established profitable routes to fly to SVG or to add one or two flights per week to SVG.

So what were the key assumptions behind the cusp of an economic takeoff viewpoint? They killed agriculture, Atlantic tuna fishing rights have been given to Taiwan, and tourism is in the doldrums. Were the key assumptions cold Ju-C and hot tri-tri cakes to the US?

Henceforward, the airport operational; what next? Maybe they are going to blow a magic conch shell or ride a magical turtle shell to economic prosperity because this airport is sure not the key to SVG’s future economic growth!

Peace and justice and get real.

Lenford O’Garro
Washington