Our Readers' Opinions
January 19, 2016
A red letter day for SVG

Editor: A close relative, writing from Canada, described a certain event as representing a ‘Red Letter Day’ in the Annals of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.” He was, of course, alluding to the successful landing of aircraft at the soon-to- be- completed Argyle International Airport. I must say, also, that my cousin is no supporter of the ruling Unity Labour Party; however, he had placed paramountcy on patriotism and, in so doing, he gave “jack his jacket”.{{more}}

This event has brought to my mind an event in May/June 1967 (over 48 years ago), in which I was involved. I was then the most senior local staff member at the UNDP Office in Port-of-Spain and the event was the visit of the UNDP-sponsored Preparatory Mission on the proposed Caribbean Development Bank, to which I was assigned not only to provide administrative support, but also to act as research officer.

Prior to its visit to the various territories, the Mission was to have before it replies from the various territories to questionnaires in which Governments were asked to identify priority projects which they would have liked the proposed CDB to address. Among those identified were: the improvement of basic Infrastructure; the improvement and diversification of agriculture; the establishment of industries, where appropriate; technical training; and the expansion of tourism.

Indeed, this last-mentioned was eventually identified by the Mission as the area which was most likely to “kick-start” the development process in the region. However, at the same time, it was recognized that Jamaica and the Bahamas had already taken the lead by having well-developed tourist plants and that Barbados was making a commendable effort.

With respect to the smaller Windward/ Leeward group, airports capable of providing facilities for large-load aircraft were identified as the major constraint against development of a viable tourism industry. I must say, however, that Saint Vincent (with its natural beauty as “the gem of the Antilles”) and (the “serenity” of) the Grenadines were, between them, identified as the possible leader in this regard. However, while Grenada was able to identify Point Salines as a possible site for an international airport, not so Saint Vincent. Indeed the Mission concluded that the ET Joshua Airport did not offer any prospect for future development and that placing it on any one of the Grenadine Islands was a ‘sine qua non’ in respect of mass tourist arrivals.

It is therefore unfortunate that SVG has only now been able to be on the verge of having an international airport and not having had, like Grenada, a “Fairy Godmother”.

A former schoolmate of mine who, like me, is an emigré in Trinidad, reflecting on the Argyle Airport Project commends the “bravery” of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in being able to source financing therefore. I myself do so! However, I am apalled that even as this project is nearing completion, some Vincentians have failed to welcome it as a possible important contributor to the long-term development of the whole of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Errol OC Cupid

Trincity, Tacarigua, Trinidad.