SVG envoy appeals for airport funding

UN Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves.
Photo by Nelson A. King

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ United Nations Ambassador, Camillo Gonsalves, on the night of May 16 appealed to nationals in New York to contribute financially towards completion of the country’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 Center 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.

“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 the CEO of the Argyle International Airport Development Company (IADC), Dr. Rudy Mathias .

“I’m hoping you’ll reach into your check 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 EC$652 million Argyle International Airport are on schedule.

He disclosed that all earthworks will be completed by mid-2013, adding that 75 percent of the earthworks on the runway, apron and taxiway were completed, as of May 12.

The prime minister said he had put together a “Coalition of the Willing,” including contributions from, among other countries, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Cuba, in constructing the international airport.

Camillo Gonsalves told the town hall meeting that US$50.00 each from 20,000 Vincentians living in Brooklyn, who return home annually for carnival, for example, will 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.”

Gonsalves added that “it’s not feasible to build a dynamic tourism product without an international airport.”

Vaughan Toney, CEO and president of the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, and an ardent supporter of the international airport project, also urged his compatriots to dig deep into their pockets and support the initiative.

“Our prime minister travels all over the world asking other people to assist us to realize our dream,” he told the town hall meeting.

“My question to you is: What are you doing, as Vincentians, to assist with this project?” he asked.

“If we are not for ourselves, then who should be for us?” he continued.

“And so I leave the words of another inspiration politician, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (late U.S. president): ‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,’” Toney said.

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 continuing to make a contribution to the development of their homeland “through tangible support to the construction of the Argyle International Airport.”

“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 neighboring 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.

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