Lack of regional transport high on OECS agenda

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CMC– Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Wednesday began a two-day summit here overshadowed by regional transportation, climate change and the continued impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the economies of their respective countries.

The leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, had to be accommodated on a special charter to ensure their participation in the summit.

Host and chairman, Premier Joseph Farrell, acknowledged that the lack of a proper regional transportation system highlighted by the collapse of the regional airline, LIAT, had severely hampered the movement of people and goods across the sub-region.

“We as a region must therefore work together and with other interest groups to find a lasting solution to reliable transportation,” he said, noting the efforts of the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne in trying to revive the St. John’s-based LIAT.

“I hope that member states will contribute to the restoration of this intra-regional travel mechanism. I stand firm in my belief that as a region we are able to face the challenges that lie ahead,” he added.

Earlier, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, who said he had plans in following St. Vincent and the Grenadines in moving away from identification cards on entry into Grenada, said regional transport is necessary to ensure closer regional integration.

 

“The high cost of travel in the region and the limited air lift opportunities continue to be the biggest hurdle that we face as it discourages the movement of people, goods and services.

“My presence and the presence of many of the other heads in Montserrat today was only made possible by charter flight. This cannot continue,” Mitchell said.

He said the creation of an environment for efficient an cost effective intra-regional transportation “is essential to the measures that are needed to bring about a true single financial and economic space as is envisioned in the revised Treaty of Basseterre (which governs the sub-regional grouping)”.

He said if the OECS leaders can give a commitment to addressing these matters at this summit “we would have sown the seeds for a much brighter future for our citizens”. (CMC)

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Everybody knows that regional transportation is necessary, but will the Caribbean leaders work together to achieve it. I wish they would stop just talking and work together to correct the situation. A lot of these leaders are not prepared to work together but will sign off if they are in control. No one small country can run any reliable airline. Governments have to pump money in their carriers to stay afloat. Ask all the countries with national carriers.

  2. The Ridiculous High price of Airline Tickets in the Region is kill we..Can the same Caribbean leaders with one mind remove the excessive Tax on said Tickets..Just imagine a 30 minutes from Antigua to Dominica cost $998.00..Murder Murder! We the traveling public should Boycott and demand Reduction of those Taxes

  3. LIAT is a Leeward Island Air Transport Company. We should have never invited Barbados to be part of this. Nor should we seek to have Trinidad to be part of this. Just like we formed ECCB and OECS. LIAT should remain a solution for the Leeward Islands. We will more easily agree with each other about this. Let St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada swallow their pride and join with us. Perhaps we should call it ECAT. Eastern Caribbean Air Transportation. Let us solve the problem locally first amongst the OECS.

  4. And we should not only look at Air Transportation but more so at improving our Sea Transportation. Especially given that Antigua is becoming a transshipment hop. We need high-speed ferry services for goods and people. A vessel that offloads in Antigua must be able to have their goods transshipped to the neighboring Islands in a very quick time. It should not take the same amount of time for the goods to reach let’s say Dominica as it takes for the vessel to come from Miami to Antigua. I personally would like to see the hovercraft being introduced in the region for this very purpose. Hovercrafts are much more economical and faster. They do not require the landslide infrastructure that regular ferries require. Easy roll-on roll of cargo. And perishable cargo would benefit most from the speed of delivery. The government made the Port investment, now it is for the Private Sector to make the logistical investment. But then again, we know how risk averse the private sector is. Therefore, the government should instruct NAMCO to lead the investment into this market segment. The British and the French invested billions of dollars to promote trade and travel via sea with the introduction of the hovercraft, taking large loads of goods to and from one country to the other. Until the time came when they adventured to build a tunnel instead. We here in the Caribbean need to have the political will to dream big and do big things for our people. That would leave a legacy for years to come. LIAT was such a legacy. It wasn’t an easy decision to make.

  5. We are one people and we need to get around to our peoples sometimes. It is therefore extremely important that our respective representatives get together and figure this vexing problem out. We were critical of LIAT in the past. They do say that you never appreciate what you have until you loose it. Now we have to get together to work it out because we have to.

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