OECS leaders discuss inter-regional transportation


(CMC) — The leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States met on Sunday to discuss the issue of air transportation in the region and has appointed a technical team to further discuss the situation.


Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, speaking on the state-owned DBS Radio on Tuesday, said that each of the member countries of the OECS will have a representative on the technical team “and then we will be engaging some consultations to put into place the legal and corporate framework to advance the decisions that would have been taken on Sunday at that meeting of the OECS heads”.

The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

Caribbean countries have hard hit by the collapse of LIAT (1974) that entered into administration in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and while the Barbados and St. Lucia governments have made available funds to cover the three-year outstanding debt to the workers in their countries, that has not been the case with employees in the other islands.

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The meeting on Sunday was to discuss a document from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) outlining a proposal for the financing and operation of a regional airline.

Late last month, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime MInister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told reporters that the initial owners of the airline could be the OECS governments “but we would have to engage the Caribbean Development Bank on this exercise too.

Prime Minister Skerrit, who is also the chairman of the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM, said he would not want to comment on statements made by Prime Minister Gonsalves regarding the rationale for the new airline.

“In all my years as prime minister, I have never been in the business of reacting to colleagues say. Every prime minister has the right to speak for and on behalf of his people and Prime Minister Gonsalves certainly has that right.

“All I would say on the matter is that we did have the meeting as OECS heads in respect to the regional travel debacle that we have been facing over the last couple years and looking at solutions to those challenges, one in the immediate term and secondly in the long term.

“We had asked the CDB and they have agreed and they have been working on this consultancy to make recommendations to us on how do we go about addressing the regional travel situation.

Skerrit told radio listeners that “as a matter of fact we had a meeting as late as Sunday gone for several hours reviewing the report and putting into place some structures to advance the recommendations by the CDB in its consultancy.

“We are looking at all of the considerations, options that are available. Is it going to be a convergence of what Prime Minister (Gaston) Browne has done so admirably, causing LIAT to continue to fly with a new dispensation”.

Skerrit said he had informed his OECS colleagues that “we certainly have to learn from what Antigua has done with LIAT, all be it with two planes.

“They are providing a service not in the original form of LIAT but they have the two planes flying and how can we join forces to solve this regional problem. So, in Dominica’s case, we are open to whatever recommendations coming that we believe could solve the problem of regional travel.

“We are working feverishly to this and Dominica is committed to playing its part in profound ways in ensuring that we can solve this problem in the short terma nd certainly in the long term”.

Skerrit said he believed also that Prime Minister Gonsalves would have been speaking from the point of view of some legal issues surrounding LIAT and “we asked for a legal opinion on what are the implications for continuing with LIAT 2020 or whatever name you want to call it, recognising that LIAT itself has been in receivership and how do you address these legal and corporate issues goi8nf forward”.

Skerrit said that there’s discussion as to whether a new entity, completely divorced from the original LIAT “would be more efficacious to advance or the current.

“And so these are the type of discussions we have been having and we have appointed a technical team to advance our cause”.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Browne said his administration is pushing ahead with plans to launch the inter-regional airline LIAT 2020 by November this year and remained hopeful that other regional countries will participate in the new venture.

Browne acknowledged being unable currently to get other countries in the OECS to join in the initiative, given that some have been speculating that if they invested in LIAT 2020, whether the creditors of LIAT 1974 would go after LIAT 2020.

“We we said to them that are separate legal entities and there is absolutely no basis in law in which creditors of LIAT 1974 could pursue4 LIAT 2020 as a new limited liability company”.

Browne said that there have been instances both in the region and the United States where companies had gone into liquidation and formed new companies just as LIAT 2020 is being established.

“I find that there is some dis-ingenuousness within the region for which some of the heads are arguing that this new entity will automatically be liable for LIAT 1974 Limited liabilities. That’s not the case,” he insisted, adding “some of our heads are lawyers and they know better”.

“LIAT 1974 is completely different from LIAT 2020. They are two different entities. I just want to clear that issue,” he said, adding “LIAT 1974 will be placed into liquidation, the assets of LIAT 1974 will be bought by LIAT 2020.

“So having given full market value for the assets, we intend to buy the planes as well. LIAT 1974 or its creditors can make any claim on LIAT 2020 Limited,” he said.

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  1. LIAT 1974 is better. Liat 1974 use to fly from southern end up to usvi, but from since when Gaston Brown renamed it as LIAT 2020 oecs and caricom nationals have been struggling to return home from usvi. No government head should be charge of Liat. Hence forth the reason why the company bankrupt because of Gaston Browns greed. . Government leaders can invest in the airline, and the hub should be remove from Antigua ,and allow liat 1974 to continue it air traffic relief to the 🇧🇧, to usvi

  2. You never miss the water until the well runs dry!
    When Liat 1974 was struggling only Barbados kept pumping tax paters money into it. The lucia government under Prime Minister Chastinet refused to assist. Hopefully the Barbados Prime Minister will not repeat that mistake

    • @German September 14, 2023 At 6:50 pm
      Please get your facts right. The Antigua government under the UPP put $8million dollars into LIAT as a Loan. The difference is Barbados put it in as Equity and that is why they became the majority shareholder. St. Lucia and Greneda refused to put in money.

  3. Any talk about regional air transportation is only a way to stall Antigua’s effort in operationalizing LIAT 2020 with AirPeace. But I warn our Prime Minister. Don’t be fooled by these guys. They are not really your friends. You outsmart them the last time and they are out to get you. They already have our Bank and now they also want our airline.

  4. I’m of the view that this matter has NOT been treated with the urgency it deserves and we are all paying dearly for it!
    Another committee….further protraction its like kicking the can further down the road. What about the CDB report??

  5. It’s time to take action now and get foreign aviation business development expertise immediately in, to work with the CDB.

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