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Open Letter to the Prime Minister: Give us an Option

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Fri, Aug 19. 2011

Dear Hon. Prime Minister,

I am of the view that Vincentians are to engage in domestic tourism only, as this LIAT situation is just plain RIDICULOUS!! Over the years, many persons have belaboured this issue, whether through the newspapers, radio, the Internet, but somehow no one believes that you are listening!{{more}}

Recently, Vincentians were informed that on top of the already high cost of travel, we now have to pay an additional cost for the fuel surcharge. Many of the regional offices are now closed, but it is ironic that the closure of these offices (which was supposed to save LIAT in operating expenses) has now resulted in the higher cost for fare. To go to neighbouring islands in an hour or less, Vincentians pay between EC$700 to 900, PLUS a Departure Tax. Whether we hope to stay for a weekend or a week, the mere cost of the ticket is already a deterrent, and many persons opt to stay put. What is the point of CARICOM and CSME and the touting of ‘free movement of people’ when we are financially restricted? In what way are we promoting regional travel and integration if we can barely come up with the cost of an airline ticket?

A monopoly never works to the advantage of the consumers. How long is it going to take for you to realise how this is affecting the middle class, much less the poorer class whose interests you state to look out for? Why does it appear that of the three shareholder countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has to be the one to keep the airline flying? These other countries have either taken on board other airline(s) flying to their country or are engaged in discussions with these airline(s) which will work to the advantage of their nationals. This leaves me to question which is more important, the suffering of Vincentians at the hands of the monopoly or ensuring that St. Vincent and the Grenadines remains adamant in keeping LIAT operational?

Many of us can appreciate your efforts to bring an international airport to the island, though many are also sceptical about when it will be truly functional. It has been reported that by 2013 the international airport will be open. Does this mean that until such time we are to pay up and shut up as it regards the sole service of LIAT to our country?

The world is becoming a more expensive place to live in and as Vincentians we can appreciate that the operating costs for LIAT will be no different. Hard working persons have to track how every penny is spent and we are constantly comparing prices, whether it is in the supermarket, the stores etc. Kindly allow us the option of comparing which airlines we wish to travel with! This should not only encourage regional tourism, but may also improve international arrivals. Give Vincentians in the diaspora some encouragement to return home more frequently. We applaud your efforts to keep LIAT flying, but it should not be at the financial expense of your nationals.

I have only touched on the issue of cost of travel. However, there are other issues regarding the airline. It is sad though that the persons who hear the views of the travelling public the most are those who work here locally. The verbal abuse which is meted out to them is unfortunate, as local LIAT staff can only give an honest answer by saying …’There is nothing we can do.’

Please, Honourable Prime Minister, listen to the views of the people you were elected to represent. Listen! Listen! Listen!

Can’t Afford

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