Tourism Minister, Richard Sealy, will be holding??talks with the??Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister on the fuel subsidy. (FP)

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has delegated Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, to hold talks with Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persard-Bissessar on the fuel subsidy issue.

He made this disclosure in the wake of a new legal opinion showing the fuel subsidy paid to the Trinidad Government is not only "subversive of several provisions" of the Revised Treaty of Chaguramas, but also the CARICOM Common Air Services Agreement.

Speaking to reporters during a press briefing following a LIAT shareholders meeting at Hilton Barbados last Friday, he reiterated the airline’s importance to the region in "fully integrating the people of this region and in the context of our commitment to the free movement of people, goods and services".

"LIAT plays a critical role in helping us to achieve that objective.?? We have managed to preserve LIAT and as the Chairman [of the shareholder governments] said, we have seen many airlines come and go, but LIAT has remained and at this time we are trying to guarantee its future by going through the replacement of the ageing fleet Dash 8 aircraft with the more modern equipment."

Describing the issue with Caribbean Airlines Limited as an ongoing one, he said the competitive advantage which the airline currently enjoyed was up for discussion with the Government of Trinidad.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the LIAT shareholders grouping and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, calculated CAL’s fuel subsidy advantage had cost LIAT US$10.2 million in revenue and 78 000 passengers over the last five years.

Dr. Gonsalves, who will be leading the delegation to the twin-island republic, said: "This is a serious matter…We have the facts on our side and we have the law on our side.?? We don’t want to fight Trinidad and Tobago, we don’t want to get into any confrontation with them but we have to have a sensible discussion on this matter."

He further stated: "We have the evidential data about the loss suffered by LIAT as a consequence of the unfair competition by CAL.?? We agree that we will make available to Trinidad and Tobago, a summary of the opinion which we have received and to make available also, the facts concerning the extent to which LIAT has been disadvantaged as a consequence of the unfair competition arising from the fuel subsidy.????????

The Chairman said CAL paid about US $50 a barrel for their aviation fuel; while LIAT paid in the region of US $120 and noted that this discrepancy would create challenges for the airline.


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