NEW YORK, May 20, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ United Nations Ambassador, Camillo Gonsalves, on Saturday night appealed to nationals here to contribute financially towards completion of St Vincent’s first international airport.
“You’ll be the very first beneficiaries of an international airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonslaves, told a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centre in Brooklyn.
“What are you going to do? The wealthiest Vincentians in the entire world live in Brooklyn, New York. And, if you look at the facts, the smallest contributors to the international airport are in Brooklyn, New York,” he added.
“If you can pay taxes to Jet Blue (airline), Grantley Adams International Airport (in Barbados), and you can bring back a bottle of strong rum when you go home, I’m sure you can make a contribution,” continued the younger Gonsalves.
Barbados, the main Eastern Caribbean hub, links to the mountainous Vincentian mainland with smaller turboprop aircraft that land at St Vincent’s tiny ET Joshua airport just outside the capital Kingstown.
“What are you going to do to leave a tangible mark on the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines?” he asked the large gathering, which included Dr. Rudy Mathias, CEO of the Argyle International Airport Development Company (IADC) which is building the airport at Argyle on the island’s southeast coast.
“I’m hoping you’ll reach into your cheque books and make an honest contribution,” Gonsalves said. “I’m begging each and everyone of you to look into your hearts to build an international airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Before departing for Taiwan for the re-inauguration ceremony of its president, Prime Minister Gonsalves told reporters that plans for completion next year of the 652 million-EC-dollar airport are on schedule.
He disclosed that all earthworks will be completed by mid-2013, adding that three-quarters of the earthworks on the runway, apron and taxiway has so far been completed.
The prime minister said he had put together a “Coalition of the Willing” – contributing nations that included Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Cuba, in building the international airport.
Camillo Gonsalves suggested to the town hall meeting that 50 US dollars each from 20,000 Vincentians living in Brooklyn, who return home annually for carnival, for example, would help significantly in the airport’s completion.
“I wish that the airport could have been built 20 years ago,” he said. “Today, we’re building the most important project in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
“It’s not feasible to build a dynamic tourism product without an international airport,” he added.
IADC officials said dozens of Vincentian nationals, who have lived most of their working lives outside St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have returned home and are contributing to the development of their homeland through “tangible support” to the airport’s construction.
“The nationals who continue to travel frequently to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines say they are fed up of the treatment meted out to them at neighbouring international airports,” said the IADC in a statement.
“They are, therefore, determined to see an end to this type of treatment through the construction of the Argyle International Airport; and, in so doing, they are ‘putting their money where their mouths are,’” it added.