March 31, 2006
Economic boom will follow the regaining of Category One status

The regaining of Category One Status for aviation in the OECS has provided the region with a splendid opportunity to facilitate further economic transformation, says Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the OECS Leads Spokesman on Aviation.

At the formal presentation of Category One Status to the OECS by the US Federal Aviation Authority (USFAA) at a ceremony hosted by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) in collaboration with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, March 24, Dr. Gonsalves said for Vincentians, the timeliness of the Category One Status cannot be overestimated.{{more}}

He said the ceremony must not be viewed as being unconnected from what is happening at the airports and the airlines in the OECS.

Dr.Gonsalves seized the opportunity to update the region on the massive expansion work that will be carried out on airport infrastructure in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. He referred to the construction of an international airport on mainland St.Vincent to the tune of EC$500 million, the development of a jet airport on the Grenadine Island of Canouan at an estimated cost of EC$54 million and the upgrade of the E.T Joshua Airport on mainland St.Vincent, currently the principal point of entry by air, at a cost of EC$30 million.

The Prime Minister said despite the achievement of Category One Status and celebration of the occasion throughout the region, the ECCAA cannot afford to become complacent and believe all has been accomplished.

“The work has just begun,” said Dr.Gonsalves, adding, “The issue of the maintenance and the continued upgrade of our security standards and the ensuring that all regional carriers are recertified and comply with the respective legislations of our states must accordingly be placed permanently on the agenda of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.”

The Prime Minister appealed to the ECCAA to remain cognizant of its responsibility because in six months the United States FAA will be conducting its follow up inspection to make certain that the ECCAA maintains its ability to provide effective safety oversight.

Mary Kramer, US Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, shared the Prime Minister’s sentiments that the OECS is now equipped with a vital tool to explore a new horizon of opportunities.

She said now for the OECS, the world is limitless in terms of what it can accomplish with aviation.

“Under Category One the sky is literally the limit. The numbers of flights can increase. The air traffic from the United States…. well, we’ve seen a nice increase already, and now we have the opportunity to move far beyond,” said Ambassador Kramer.

“The future is in our grasp and it is up to us to seize it together,” she said.

Meanwhile Dr.Gonsalves has reminded the people of the region that though they cannot afford to dwell on the past, there are valuable lessons that can be learned from past experiences, especially the one of June 1996 when the OECS was found wanting and the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) was downgraded from Category One to Category Two status.

“Since then it has been an uphill struggle…so as a region we have to continue the momentum towards the continued upgrading to the ECCAA,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

He showered praises on the management, staff and Board of Directors of the ECCAA for the work undertaken in ensuring the region has achieved the milestone.

Air transportation is central to the existence of the people of the region and is a critical link to our trading partners, Dr.Gonsalves pointed out. He said this is especially so with the increasing emphasis on tourism, services and air transport related economic activities.

The OECS has now joined other CARICOM states such as the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam and Jamaica in enjoying the prestigious Category One status.