By Demion McTair. Updated 2:18 a.m., Saturday, July 4, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who took up chairmanship of the Conference of Heads of Governments of CARICOM on Friday (July 3), made no mention of LIAT restructuring plans when he outlined transportation measures for the sub-region.
Regional airline LIAT is to be liquidated. But, Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne had announced plans to form a new LIAT, including a cash investment for the proposed new entity.
Gonsalves, who now takes up the six-month chairmanship from Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley told the conference heads that he had already been working on the issue of regional air transportation in his previous portfolio.
“As chair of the transportation portfolio in the CARICOM quasi-cabinet, I’ve already been in touch with several airlines, the principal ones being CAL (Caribbean Airlines), Inter-Caribbean, One Caribbean and SVG Air and there are others that prime minister Mottley has mentioned” – Dr. Gonsalves said.
“I believe that we are going to be able to provide, in a very short time, a sufficiency of regional transport to serve this sub region, to serve ourselves safely, reliably, sustainably, and reasonably priced. I want to give that assurance to the people of the Caribbean Community” – Dr. Gonsalves added.
Gonsalves told the other regional leaders that ” the challenge which is upon us in respect of regional air transportation is one which is in our hands to solve”.
The major shareholders of LIAT include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In a June 28 telephone call to WEFM’s Issue at Hand program, Dr. Gonsalves said LIAT’s already challenging situation was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, where the airline lost over EC$35 million dollars.
On June 27, Antigua’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne said “From all indications, LIAT will be liquidated”.
“COVID would have actually, let’s say increased the losses exponentially, so whereas in all of 2019 LIAT made a loss of about EC$12 million, that was within the means of the shareholder governments to subsidize,” Browne said on local radio in Antigua.
“You would have found that since COVID, the planes have been grounded, they have to pay the lease payments and they are not getting any revenue.
At a time when government revenues have dwindled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shareholder governments say they can go no further with the airline.