Tuesday 11 August, 2020

CARICOM committed to affordable, safe and reliable air transport

Prime Minister Mia Mottley is ensuring Caribbean people that they will not be left stranded.

This assurance was given by the outgoing Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as she appeared as a guest on Grenada’s 95.1 FM on July 1.

While acknowledging that the present plight of LIAT was a “sad moment” PM Mottley voiced CARICOM’s commitment “to ensuring that there is affordable, safe and reliable air transport” stating: “At the very core of the community is the issue of transport and communication.”

Following on from a recent paper she requested from the CARICOM Secretariat, the PM of Barbados revealed that there were 38 airlines flying within the Caribbean region and of the 38, only nine were identified as extra-regional.

Although she highlighted that of the remaining 29, most of them were in the northern Caribbean PM Mottley stated that a number of them were already flying in the Southern Caribbean and several applications were received within the past couple of days for others to fly.

When questioned about the stance of Heads of Government across the region to privatization of the aviation sector to facilitate lower airfares and increased movement, in light of the pending LIAT collapse, the then CARICOM Chair said:

“The conversations that we have been having with each other relate around ensuring that we do that which is necessary to allow those airlines that can move people, to do so.”

While describing LIAT as “a treasured institution” and expressing regret about the recent developments PM Mottley identified “over hundreds of millions of debt, accumulated legacy debt and a very difficult environment within which to function” as some of the hurdles the airline faced.

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However, she went on to say that other airlines existed and it was the responsibility of CARICOM to see how best they could facilitate them and ensure that these airlines could provide safe, affordable and reliable travel.

In order to do so, PM Mottley stated that Heads of Governments had agreed that a review of taxation is necessary in order to create an environment that stimulates travel throughout the region. “Travel has a greater multiplier effect within the context of our economies than other things,” she highlighted in the interview.

A review of licensing is also being undertaken PM Mottley stated. “In some instances, even though we have these other 29 regional airlines, they don’t have access to the fifth freedom and seventh freedom rights that they need to be able to move easily between the islands.”

PM Mottley believes that the private sector should be taking the lead.

She said: “I think governments may keep small shares in whatever maybe created to be able to give the private sector investors the comfort that we are not going to subject them regulatory confusion and long, long processes -but predominantly we need lean entities that are private sector-driven and where people are focused on how do they stay afloat through making a profit and through ensuring that there is adequate cashflow, while providing the service to our people.”

Today (July 3) Prime Minister Mia Mottley will officially hand over the reins to the CARICOM chair to her successor Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves.

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