Incoming CARICOM Chairman Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has called on his colleagues heads of government to take measures to reduce the cost of intra-regional travel.
Dr. Mitchell told a meeting of CARICOM leaders in Grenada last night that transportation is the lifeblood of our integration process.
He warned that weak domestic and intra-regional air travel added to low service, competition, and high travel cost all culminate in the reality that Caribbean counties connect more easily to destinations outside of the region than to destinations within member states.
“As an integral aspect of our approach in addressing the issue of air connectivity, it must include reducing the cost of air travel to rejuvenate intraregional travel,” the host Prime Minister said.
He said it would represent a significant installment to the regional integration account “if heads would collectively agree to reduce airline ticket taxes, as well as other fees which are attached to the cost of intra-regional air travel.”
It has been proven that airline taxes make up the bulk of airfares when flying from island to island.
The incoming CARICOM chairman, turning his attention to regional airline LIAT said: “I have long held the belief that too much political presence on the board of airlines such as LIAT is not helpful to its proper management an efficiency.”
Dr. Mitchell told his colleagues that LIAT’s sustainability would have benefited if it was run more as a private sector operation.
“Governments then subsidize flights to given destinations or routes, that are in the best interest of their respective countries. We do so now with international airlines we could do so with LIAT,” he said.
Relating a recent experience in Grenada the regional prime minister asked: “how can LIAT strive when a few months ago, literally overnight, LIAT canceled one of its most lucrative routes from Grenada to Barbados without any consultation with the citizens or leadership of Grenada.”
“We have to do better as a region,” he said.