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Bury Fiat, resuscitate Liat

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Frank Sinatra left us some powerful songs: “Chicago”, “I did it My Way”, “Lady is a Tramp” and my fair-foh-hit, “It was a Great Year.” My great year was when ah was among de few lucky ones in those days, to get an all-expenses-paid scholarship, to study in Canada.

It was de first time ah ever left my homeland; first time ah ever fly in ah plane. Everything was small in dem days: de planes, yuh suit-case, even de E.T. Joshua Airport run-way was short. No wonder ah was very nervous to fly. Dat was exactly 50 years ago, but guess what? I flew out to Bo-bathe-us on ah LIAT 14-seater plane. How can I forget 1969, ah year of Nostalgia, “It was my Great Year!”

LIAT started as ah one-man operation, wid ah small plane; ah 3-seater in de Leeward Islands in 1956. LIAT was on to ah good thing as de demand foh travel was high. But de lickle company needed ah big brother in de sky, and after ah few short years, ah merger was formed between BWIA and LIAT, wid BWIA owning three quarter of de shares.

By 1970, LIAT extended its scheduled services to 23 islands and increased its fleet to 11 aircraft, de Avros and de Islanders. Just imaging dat today 2020, 50 years after “take-off,” LIAT is winding down wid ah fleet of 12 planes, nine of which are leased and three belong to de CDB. Practically speaking, LIAT has no assets, and dat is not good news foh LIAT faithful workers who are owed pensions and severance pay. Lie-Za say LIAT’s biggest asset is its debts.

AUNT-EAGER DE EARLY BIRD

Back in 1974, ah “dooms day” sign hit de wall, BWIA had turned its shares over to ah British Company that quickly opted out also, leaving LIAT at de cemetery gate. So a rescue plan by de Government of Aunt-eager, de typical ‘Early Bird’ took de initiative, becoming de biggest share-holder of an 11-member Caribbean Government merger, thereby saving the airline. Dat’s when LIAT became Arwe Own. From de start dat Merger was intended to be one wid “Good Intentions,” Actually it lived up to its name, as “De road to hell is paved wid good intentions”. LIAT turned out to be ah ah Pull-it-tek-all Club!

Antigua, invested de most money, so even though it was least central, grabbed de Headquarters and de biggest work-force. Presently, LIAT has 660 workers, Antigua alone has 367 workers, more dan half de region’s total work-force and nine times de 41-members staff in SVG.

In 1980, just six years after dat merger, LIAT made ah profit of over ah half ah million dollars, ah think after dat harvest, de company ran into ah down-hill slide, mainly thru bad management, bad spending, purchasing wrong planes, pull-it-tek-all interference, and of course corrupt-shun! LIAT was like ah Dance dat could never pay foh de lights, spending more money dan it making. Passengers are penalized wid departure taxes higher dan de actual price foh ah seat. Dat’s still not enuff. Every three or four years, millions ah “Bail-out money” is bailed out ah de local Treasury or thru loans to keep LIAT alive.

DE VOICE OF DE CHEERMAN

Lie-Za says after she listened to an explanation by de current cheer-man of de Board, she overs LIAT’s role as ah business, or not as ah business. In an interview by ah female journalist from Jah-mek-her, he told her dat “LIAT is not ah business dat is going to make money. It is ah service dat has to be provided, and if we can break even wid dis service, dah is fine, but you cannot make money out of it.”

Unfortunately de Cheerman spoke truth. LIAT is just like another Public Service Department, owned and managed by Go-venom-mint. De Shareholder’s board of Directors are de Prime Ministers, de cheer-man-ship is rotated among Prime Ministers. She asked if any member of LIAT’s Board of Directors would have invested dey own money, millions ah dollars in de Airlines.

So what should be done? Lie-Za say change de name to “FIAT”, wid “F” as in Failed. Lef all de Pull-it-to-kill Directors in de Pull-it-tek-all ICU at Aunt-eager. Let dem “fade far away, dissolve and quite forget.” Pull de Pull-it-to-call Life Support and give “FIAT” ah pull-it-tek ill burial. Finally, resusitate LIAT and put knowledgeable people to “Run LIAT Like Ah Business”! And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy.

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.

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