PM Stands By Decision To Try To Save LIAT

LIAT Crew and Staff POS

The Antigua and Barbuda government has re-affirmed its position to ensure the survival of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, even as Barbados has signalled “that ownership of the shares of the airline is a burden”.

A statement issued after the weekly Cabinet meeting here, said that the “choices” made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne to save the airline “rather than collapse or downsize the regional carrier” had been discussed.

It said “while LIAT employees are encouraging the Antigua and Barbuda leadership to forge ahead, two journalists from a regional newspaper have been planting critical stories about the valiant Antiguan attempt to save LIAT”.

LIAT currently employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations and the Cabinet statement noted that more than “400 LIAT employees are stationed in Antigua, and 700 throughout the 15 jurisdictions to which LIAT flies”.

LIAT major shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

On Wednesday, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, addressing a luncheon of the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC), stopped short of saying whether her administration would dispose of its 49 per cent interest in the airline, declaring instead that she will not be having any discussions in the public domain.

“Let’s just say we agree on the mission, and the mission is that there must always be reliable affordable access for travel in the region as there must be nationally. And I can assure you and the country that we are working on this every day.

“But you also have to take the reality of an existence as you find it and then determine whether the modality that you have is the best mechanism by which to deliver on that objective,” she added.

But the Cabinet statement here noted that “LIAT also generates significant revenue for Barbados, whose leader signalled that ownership of the shares of the airline is a burden; selling aircraft and downsizing LIAT is in that nation’s best interest, the leader suggested”.

Last week, Browne had informed his Cabinet colleagues that he had written to Prime Minister Mottley on the LIAT restructuring plan”.

Earlier this month, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the shareholder governments had agreed to give further consideration to a proposal by Prime Minister Browne regarding the future direction of the airline.

Gonsalves told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Antigua and Barbuda had made an oral presentation to the shareholders meeting and would present a written document over the next few days.

Gonsalves said he hopes that the proposal from Antigua and Barbuda would be discussed by the shareholders “before the end of May is out”.

Antigua and Barbuda currently holds 34 per cent of the shares and if it succeeds in convincing Bridgetown to part with its LIAT shares, would have 81 per cent of the airline that serves 15 destinations in the region.

Grenada recently became the latest shareholder in LIAT and Gonzales has confirmed that St. Kitts-Nevis had responded positively to the call for raising US$5.4 million to help the airline deal with its current financial problems.

St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said that Castries would not contribute any funds unless there’s a significant change to the airline’s structure.

The statement issued after the Cabinet meeting here, noted that “St. Lucia and other island-countries that benefit from LIAT are being asked to share in the burden of carrying LIAT”.

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  1. So owning shares in liat is a burden but they can’t say whether or not they are letting go of their shares. Its a big power grab as I see it.
    Rather than relinquish the majority in the airline, they rather to see it fail. Tells you just how much Bajans care for the rest of us.

  2. The antigua government need to take a page out of the barbados government by not talking prematurely on ongoing discussions they have on issues. They coming out about Sir Branson was idiotic and damaging. I’m quite sure it was just a preliminary discussion and the announce it as of it is a done deal. When you expose things like that childishly you are going to get a lot of bad press and even turn off prospective investors.

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