December 14, 2012

PM: Funding for Argyle airport does not come from central government

Funding for the $652 million international airport at Argyle is not coming from central government, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves reiterated Sunday.{{more}}

“There are people in the NDP (New Democratic Party) … I want to say this to you, the NDP knows when they see the airport coming they saying that Ralph starving the country in order to feed the airport,” Gonsalves told the Unity Labour Party’s 19th convention.

“I say this to you: what is building the airport is not — emphasize not — central government money,” he continued.

He explained the nature of the financing arrangement for the airport, saying first that there were some bridging loans.

“So, as we sell lands, those (loans) would be paid over,” he said.

Thirty million dollars of the anticipated cost of the terminal building is coming from Taiwan; $20 million comes in the form of a grant and $10 million is as a result of a soft loan.

“What we are putting in the terminal building is a small bit of money,” the prime minister said.

“Every year, for ongoing operations, I take half of the PetroCaribe money and put it there,” he explained.

PetroCaribe is an oil pact some Caribbean states have with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

“If NDP in power there would be no PetroCaribe money — so half of the whole is more than what we had before. And the whole is in excess of what they will have, because they say they will unsign (rescind) it,” Gonsalves said.

Further financing for the airport has been provided through a loan from the ALBA Bank and money from the sale of shares from the former National Commercial Bank, now the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines, have been put to finance the construction of the airport.

“It ain’t go in Ralph trousers pocket. It is there to build infrastructure to have the tourists come and spend their money and for Vincentians to have an easier time to come home.”

The single largest local contribution, he said, was from the state owned National Properties, of which $74.9 million have been contributed through the sale of lands.

He commended Cuba’s contribution and the input by Venezuela and other countries who have pledged support.

“For every dollar we spent on the earthworks, nearly $7 of value have been created,” Gonsalves said.

“Those are the facts. These things have happened, not just by accident, but because of vision and because of our philosophy,” the prime minister said.

He made the point that airport translated into potential opportunities.

The authorities at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados were already getting worried about the potential for competition from St Vincent with the opening of the airport, he said.

“And may the best man win. But there is enough to go around for everyone. They will get a piece and we will get a piece, but is like the lotto — … if you don’t have the airport you don’t have a chance,” he said.

The airport is scheduled to be completed in 2013 and to become operational in 2014. (DD)