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More money for LIAT

More money for LIAT

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Air transportATION in the region and more directly
to St. Vincent and the Grenadines hovers in pockets of uncertainty, and how the turbulence improves seems likely to take further rounds of negotiations, compromises and tolerance.
By December this year, talks on a possible “nexus” between Liat and BWIA should advance and bring airline access to a degree of acceptability. {{more}}
When the House of Assembly meets here August 3, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will report on the progress of Liat. This situation with the air carrier has occupied a great deal of the region’s attention, especially in recent times.
Air transport has soared to the height of serious concern over the years. And there seems no end in sight to the buoyant affair.
In the House of Assembly, listeners can expect to hear another of Dr. Gonsalves’ furores on Liat’s survival.
For Dr. Gonsalves, keeping Liat in the sky is a “strategic issue”. With the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy, the Vincentian Prime Minister says there cannot be a CSME “without reliable intra-island transport owned or influenced by the region”.
He emphasised that St. Vincent and the Grenadines needed Liat, and that the nation could not be “exposed to any other airline”.
Dr. Gonsalves pointed out that cash infusions to Liat were short term and were not enough to restructure the airline.
He cited additional problems of rising fuel costs, fallen fares, predatory pricing and mimicking of schedules as contributing to Liat’s woes. Dr. Gonsalves noted that some of Liat’s staff had been unproductive, and that even though the airline operated efficiently, “It would at best be a marginal financial proposition.”
Liat received an injection of $22 million following a meeting in Barbados last week Friday. That session was attended by four of the region’s prime ministers: Trinidad and Tobago’s Patrick Manning, Antigua and Barbuda’s Baldwin Spencer, host Owen Arthur, and Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. SVG’s contribution was $5.7 million, secured from a loan at zero per cent interest from Trinidad and Tobago. Another $23 million is forthcoming, including private sector investment, and according to Dr. Gonsalves another meeting planned for October 8 will give the update on the progress of Liat’s revival.
For the Vincentian Prime Minister, it is cheaper to keep Liat flying than to close it. And for him, liquidation is not an option, neither is sitting back and doing nothing.
Finding money to compensate workers as a result of Liat’s closure would have been one of the biggest challenges facing the airline.
Dr. Gonsalves linked the question of air access with Liat’s survival. And for him, the construction of a jet port at Canouan is coming as a major boost in air traffic flow in the region. That will form a stop gap measure while plans for the construction of a jet port on mainland St. Vincent is taking positive direction. Dr. Gonsalves disclosed that his administration was the “first government to address an airport on mainland St.Vincent in a scientific way”.
He mentioned that further development at Kitchen and Argyle was halted as plans for airport construction continued to be explored.
Dr. Gonsalves expressed satisfaction that “We are on stream for construction of a jet port on mainland St. Vincent.” He was hesitant to reveal details on the progress of the airport construction but mentioned that it would take six years before it will be ready.

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