By Peter Binose
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I have never called the airport at Argyle a phantom project. I have always supported an airport being built.
The only thing Phantom was the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ and the funding, I believe it was a fabrication. A smoke and mirrors deception on the Vincentian people. I also believe there was no Coalition, and no Willing partners. It was all a play on evocative words to fool the people.
We were told that there was a Coalition of the Willing, a group of countries that were willing to pay for construction, plant & machinery, and all the cement and tar-macadam. Everything to be paid for by others, countries willing to help us because Gonsalves was their beloved comrade. It was all lies, there was no Coalition of the Willing, and there is still no Coalition of the Willing, only a Coalition of the Unwilling. Countries who wanted us to employ their workmen and corporations. Countries that wanted to give us loans, to earn money from us, no willing givers of anything.
Initially some trucks and a few pieces of second-hand reconditioned newly painted plant and machinery arrived from Panama and Miami. I inspected it at close range on several occasions and took the serial numbers to get an idea of prices and values of the equipment. It was driven in convoy from the docks to Argyle flying red communist flags, accompanied by a whole lot of idiots wearing red shirts and T-shirts and a big police escort. I big show off and load of crap rhetoric by Gonsalves. As a matter of dramatics it happened on the busiest day of the week, wreaking havoc to Kingstown’s commercial and retail districts, causing further damage to all those very traders that the government owed money and still owe money, owed now for years, government won’t pay, can’t pay. Now there is doubt in my mind that the initial items were in fact free, a gift from Venezuela. I say that because everything else has proven to be untrue, and the Prime Minister said he sometimes tells lies. This small amount of initial equipment has been added to as the project progressed. The major part of the equipment we purchased, paid for by us taking out loans, even loans from Venezuela, PetroCaribe and ALBA, so much for willingness.
A number of ex British Army Terex Articulated dump trucks arrived. I took the serial numbers and checked on the price they were sold for in the UK, to compare at a later date what was purported we paid for them.
To help us understand the funding, Ralph Gonsalves cousin Julian Francis told the people that Gonsalves had assured him that when the project is finished there will be no debts, and there would of been no cost to the tax payer.
For those of you who do not know Julian Francis, he is the man that told us in the newspapers that if anyone has got a problem being paid by Harlequin at Buccament, to go and see him, and he would try and resolve it. Buccament’s Mr Fixit I named him at the time. He is a Senator in the ULP government, and he has unsuccessfully stood for election once, sometimes called by me the unelected unelectable. Of course I forgot to mention, he is Ralph Gonsalves’ cousin.
I have objected all along to the lies and deceit about approvals and funding, about using the Cubans to build the airport, which could have been built by Vincentians. Robbing Vincentian families of a living, by employing Cubans to do their jobs, jobs that should have been theirs as a right. Paying Cubans three times as much as the highest paid Vincentian artisan worker. All that money being shipped back to Cuba, helping the Cuban economy, damaging the Vincentian economy. Telling us that the Cubans wages were being paid by the Venezuelans, which turned out to be untrue, they have never paid a single cent. SVG have been paying just under EC$400,000 a month, no help from the Venezuelans.
Had the wages been paid to Vincentians instead of Cubans it would have put food on the tables of good Vincentian people. It would have created extra jobs in Kingstown stores. To top that the Government would have got about 50 per cent back from duty and tax’s and VAT. And the Wages bill instead of being about $400,000 monthly, would have only been about $125,000 a month.
In the meantime Gonsalves has been running from country to country scrounging, sponging, poncing, and begging, to try and get a supply of money for the project. He has taken money from countries such as Iran, even they wanted something in return, they were unwilling also, they wanted us to vote for them at the UN. Why? Because they were killing Christians, just because they were Christians. Also they are believed to be constructing an atomic bomb. Iran needs all the votes from little crap prime ministers and UN ambassador’s that they can gather, men that are willing to sell the souls of their countries and citizens in return for a vote in Iran’s favour at the UN. A vote to try and stop the wrath of decent countries from punishing Iran.
Some believe Hugo Chavez contracted cancer whilst carrying on the new direct flight that connected the two countries, a sample flask of uranium from Venezuela to Iran in 2007. It is said he carried the flask on his lap during the flight.
Chavez had come to SVG to look at the airport site and on a rostrum with Gonsalves launched into a tirade of hate against the United States and the U.S. President. Students of the medical college who were there, later wrote to Gonsalves and all the newspapers objecting to Gonsalves slapping the back of Chavez, laughing and hugging Chavez up, after Chavez’s diatribe. They objected to Gonsalves for not rebuking Chavez for making those statements on Vincentian soil.
The college said a vote of the next terms students that would come from Grenada, had voted against coming to Saint Vincent by 85 per cent to 15 per cent. Shortly after this episode the Medical school pulled out. All sorts of other reasons have been given for the college pulling out, but having read the students letter, I am convinced that the Chavez episode was the reason.
There are now three medical schools in SVG, none that have generated the same kind of monitory advantage for the country. The St. George’s Medical University students were said to have generated annually $30 million for SVG. Their rapid departure caused serious problems for Aunt Jobes Supermarket at Stoney Ground who very much relied on them, and currently the Gittens Supermarket at Prospect is a shell of itself (Please go take a look inside, it will break your heart).
Almost all the apartments previously let to students at Ratho Mill, Prospect and as far as Brighton, have remained empty. Most of the owners who built these apartments to accommodate the medical students are unable to pay their mortgages and loans, if not causing the collapse, certainly the near collapse of institutions such as the NCB bank and Building and Loans, adding greatly to their problems.
The Argyle airport has destroyed the very fabric of Vincentian society, because of the way it was dealt with, the cost that we were told would not exist, the loss of St. Georges, the near collapse brought about of our banking and finance sector.
The government owe hardware and building materials suppliers about $40 million, owed it now for several years.
And on top of all that there about 60 ex Argyle land owners, who had their land taken for the airport, now several years later, they remain unpaid. What a disgrace.