Countries in the region that benefit from LIAT’s services have been called upon to invest in the regional airline.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, made this appeal during the welcome ceremony for the arrival of LIAT (1974) Ltd.’s new ATR-72-600 aircraft at the Grantley Adams International Airport yesterday.
“I strongly encourage those who benefit from LIAT’s services to give it the same support which they have for years been putting behind the foreign carriers,” he stressed.
Mr. Sealy outlined that the Government of Barbados, along with its shareholder partners: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and recently, Dominica, “are convinced that our investment in this airline, with its faults and all, has proven itself to be the bridge over the Caribbean Sea, without which the [CARICOM] Single Market and Economy could not function”.
The International Transport Minister explained that LIAT’s investment in new aircrafts would cost up to US$100 million over the next two years in equity and debt financing.
“That is a considerable investment,” he declared, adding:?? “The Government of Barbados is the single largest shareholder and the reality is, given the sacrifices that we are asking Barbadians to make at home; the Government and people and taxpayers of Barbados cannot be counted upon to simply ???pony up’ every time LIAT needs assistance.?? We all have to come to the mark.”
Emphasising the importance of LIAT to the regional market, he insisted that Caribbean countries needed to work together to “grow the market even in extremely difficult global and regional economic circumstances.”
Chairman of the Board of Directors of LIAT, Dr. Jean Holder, noted that while the airline business was financially risky the region “could not do without LIAT”.
He explained that the record of losses for regional airline businesses amounted to billions of dollars, and stated: “It is not that we in the Caribbean do not know what we are doing, but I can assure you that airline losses are fairly common on a global basis.”
Dr. Holder pointed out that the survival of LIAT for the last 57 years was a “remarkable achievement” and also urged countries taking advantage of LIAT’s services to invest in the airline.
He charged that the airline was special because “it is the only airline that if it shuts for a week, can bring this region to a complete paralyzed close.?? It is the most essential airline operating in this region.?? Without it, people of this region would be isolated as prisoners in their little islands”.
Reasoning that the terrain of the Caribbean was difficult, since there were 40 islands scattered across one million miles of sea, he indicated that LIAT connects 21 of those lands everyday by providing approximately 120 flights a week.
Dr. Holder argued that investing US$100 million in LIAT was critical to protecting this region since LIAT’s services were vital for socio-economic development.
According to him, LIAT makes it possible for businessmen, students [and] people seeking medical attention to get around this region.?? “If that is a risky investment, I want to be known as the Chief Risk Taker in this region… It is a risk that is worth taking,” he insisted.??
In his address, Chief Executive Officer of LIAT, Captain Ian Bunton stated: “Without this game changing aircraft… LIAT would gradually die.?? We could not continue with the old assets much longer.”??
Noting the money that was invested was “a tremendous hope” for LIAT, he said: “… The airplane is economical.?? But, also, the product offering is so much better than what we have seen in the past.?? It’s quiet, it’s clean [and] it’s non-vibrating…our customers deserve this change.”??