July 11, 2008
Work to commence on Airport

This Sunday will mark another historic milestone on the road towards the realization of an International Airport for this country.

The event, which will take the form of a party style ground breaking ceremony, will commence at 11:30 a.m, at Argyle, with an entertainment package provided by reigning Soca Monarch Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous” Doyle, Rondy “Luther” McIntosh, and James ‘Jamesy-P’ Morgan.{{more}}

This segment will be followed by the official ceremony at 2:30 p.m., with addresses by Dr. Rudy Matthias, Chairman of the International Airport Development Company (IADC) and representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority; Cuba; the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a feature address by Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves.

Breaking with the more traditional trend of breaking the earth with a fork and a spade, Prime Minister Dr.Gonsalves will do so with a bulldozer after his speech.

At present, the International Airport Project is one of the most hotly debated projects in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, and has stirred palaver and posturing among Vincentians of all persuasions and political affiliations, whether idealistic or cynical, enthusiastic or cantankerous.

In what may be argured to be one of the most important speeches to date at the national level, i.e. the Monday, August 8, 2005, Road Map for an International Airport in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr.Gonsalves in his historic address told the nation: “The longer we wait to do it, the more expensive it would be.

“Indeed an international airport in St.Vincent should have been built a long time ago. There will be no further delays. Delay here is a thief time; and time is money,” the Prime Minister commented, on what is still the most costly project to be undertaken by this country.

At the time, he made it clear that financing a project of such nature, given this country’s economic circumstances, is not an exercise for the faint-hearted.

He said neither is it an exercise for “the overly cautious, the pessimist or one stuck in a neutral gear of learned helplessness”.

The Prime Minister has often declared that financing the construction of an international airport on St. Vincent is clearly a challenge.

The most recent estimate of the international airport project is US$165 million (or EC$448 million). In terms of the physical land space, the international airport is expected to consume about 375 acres of land, with a runway pavement of about 2,743 metres (9,000 feet) in length and 45 metres (150 feet) in width. The terminal building will have about 5,000 square metres (53,820 square feet) of floor space, designed to handle about one million passengers annually.

There are seven elemental costs that add up to the US$164.9 million budget, namely: Property acquisition; Earth and site works; Apron, Runway and Taxiway; Roads and support services; Terminal building & control tower; Project delivery/Management; and Contingency.

According to a government report, as its main contribution to the project, government (through the IADC) purchased from its own resources all properties (houses and vacant lands) on the site earmarked for the airport. Property acquisition is estimated at EC$106 million (US$39 million) or 23.7 per cent of the overall cost of the project. Funding for these purchases comes from the sale of Crown lands. As its capital stake in the IADC, government vested in the company over 800 acres of land across St. Vincent and the Grenadines, most of which is being sold to raise funds to buy the properties on the site and to cover the cost of project management and related expenses.

The other expenses of the project estimated to cost EC$448 million in the most recent estimate will be withstood by a group of countries Prime Minister Gonsalves calls the ‘Coalition of the Willing’: Cuba, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Taiwan, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, May 22, 2008, the first caravan of equipment was transported to Argyle from the Campden Park Port, while the second batch of equipment was delivered at Argyle International Airport Project site on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. It included 43 pieces of equipment valued at EC$27 million or US$10.3 million.