KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Thursday April 30, 2015, CMC – The main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) says it remains committed to completing the EC$700 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) international airport under construction at Argyle if it is elected to office in the next general elections.
General elections are constitutionally due in March 2016, but are widely expected this year.
NDP leader Arnhim Eustace, speaking on his weekly radio programme, said that while his party still has concerns about the implementation of the project, too much money has been invested for it not to be completed.
He was repeating a position first enunciated on the eve of the December 2010 general elections, when he announced that his party is committed to completing the project.
The airport, which has missed several deadlines since 2011, is now expected to be completed in October 2015, head of the Tourism Authority, Glen Beache has said, even as other government officials have avoided a definite date, saying only that it will be competed “later this year”.
But Eustace said that he does not believe that it will be finished by the end of 2016. He promised listeners that his party would inform the population up to date on what is happening in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the airport, when it holds a mass rally on May 9.
He reiterated that since 2010 the NDP has said that it will do everything in its power to continue the airport.
“We know it’s not very viable because the government had done a lot of stupidness with the cost of the airport, but we can’t have that millions and millions of dollars spent and the airport never opens,” said, Eustace, a former finance minister here.
“Of course, we don’t believe it will be opened anytime soon, certainly not in this year or even next year, but, with that kind of money spent on it, it’s something we have to look at very carefully and do what we can to complete the airport.
“I know some people don’t agree with that because they figure it was a bad project in the first place in the sense that it costs so much, it wasn’t properly studied and designed and so on, but the reality is lots of money has been spent,” said Eustace, an economist.
“It’s not a matter of stopping work and forgetting about it. We can’t forget the amount that has been spent,” Eustace said, noting that some people whose properties were acquired to build the airport are yet to be paid.
“I understand that 61 landowners … have not yet been paid for their land and we hear all kinds of glorious stories about the airport,” he said, adding that he was “fooled” sometime ago when he saw what he thought was a lot of paving of the runway.
“And somebody told me it is oil that they just put down there that makes it appear as if they put asphalt on it.”
Eustace said he was told that the fuel for the aircraft will be pumped uphill before it goes down into the airport itself.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Richardson, communications officer at the International Airport Development Company (IADC), the state-owned company that is building the airport, told the state-owned National Broadcasting Corporation recently that work on the airport is “really progressing well”.
“From what I have observed, the work is really speeding along at this time. The major areas of concentration right now are on the apron and paving of the runway, also the river, which is a major engineering undertaking,” Richardson said earlier this month.