I am happy to participate in this Opening Ceremony of the Argyle International Airport. I thank Dr. the Honourable Ralph Everard Gonsalves for his kind invitation to me to attend this event.
I express my appreciation to the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the warm welcome and the excellent arrangements afforded to me and the Guyana delegation.
I bring fraternal greetings from my own country – the Cooperative Republic of Guyana – and from the Caribbean Community of which I am currently the Chairman. We congratulate and celebrate our sister state – St. Vincent’s – splendid infrastructural achievement.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, like most Caribbean countries, is classified as a small-island developing state. Smallness, in the international community, has come to be considered, conventionally, but not necessarily correctly, as a constraining factor to development. Small states have been associated with limitations on:
– attractiveness for investment in physical infrastructure; and
– competitiveness, owing to the diseconomies of scale.
Investments in infrastructure in small states, however, are vital to increasing the competitiveness of their goods and services and reducing production and transport costs.
We belong to the Caribbean – a unique zone on earth. Our Region comprises, mainly, a chain of 7,000 cays, islands, islets and reefs in 2,640,000 km² of sea. We are small and scattered. Our geographical size, however, must not limit our national economic ambitions and our citizens’ personal quality of life.
Small can be beautiful, bountiful and, of course, delightful. Small states can overcome constraints to their development by leveraging their natural assets through capital investment and physical infrastructure.
St Vincent and the Grenadines’s Tourism Authority reported that almost three out of every five stay-over arrivals were from North America and Western Europe. Most of the ‘pre-Argyle,’ stay-over arrivals did not enjoy direct flights to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They would have had to transit through other countries, adding to their travelling costs and increasing their inconvenience.
The international tourism industry is very competitive. Small states must take steps to reduce the cost and inconvenience of airline travel if they are to retain the comparative advantage of their tourism product and remain globally competitive.
Investments in infrastructure help small states to improve the competitiveness of their services. Investments in longer aerodromes and larger terminals capable of facilitating more frequent flights with bigger aircraft can boost the competitiveness of their tourism products.
The Caribbean welcomes the construction of the Argyle International Airport. It is expected to enhance the Vincentian ‘brand’ and add significantly to Vincentian infrastructural stock. It is expected to make travel from this country’s major tourism markets easier, cheaper and faster.
European colonial rivalry created a fragmented Region of sovereign small-island and mainland states. The sea that separates the islands and washes the shores of the mainland states must become, increasingly, a source of convergence rather than collision and confrontation.
We have forged a community of small, sovereign states from this legacy of fragmentation and physical separation over the past forty-four years. Caribbean integration is actively being achieved by:
– constructing institutions to improve cooperation and coordination;
– facilitating the freer movement of capital goods, people and services;
– widening contacts among our academics, artistes, investors, sportsmen, students and tourists; and,
– spanning the sea that, historically, has separated us.
Infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure, can help to reduce our physical separation and bring the small states of our community closer together. Infrastructure is the means through which we can intensity the contacts among our people, increases intra-regional trade and help us to integrate our economies.
I congratulate the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the completion of the Argyle International Airport.
The Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Caribbean Community look forward to this international airport’s boosting the development prospects of St Vincent and the Grenadines and deepening the integration of the Caribbean Region.