Govt yet to make decision on LIAT

Gov­ern­ment is yet to make a de­ci­sion on how it will treat with the Lee­ward Is­land Air Trans­port (LI­AT), hours af­ter it was re­port­ed that the air­line could drop T&T from its sched­ule of routes as it seeks to re­struc­ture amid fi­nan­cial bur­dens.

On Tues­day, St Vin­cent and the Grenadines Prime Min­is­ter Dr Ralph Gon­za­lves hint­ed that LI­AT could dis­con­tin­ue its ser­vice with T&T.

The cash-strapped air­line is cur­rent­ly seek­ing an in­jec­tion of US$5.4 mil­lion to help keep it in the sky and has tak­en mat­ter to Cari­com for as­sis­tance. But Gon­za­lves said so far on­ly Grena­da has re­spond­ed pos­i­tive­ly to a min­i­mum rev­enue guar­an­tee (MRG) pro­pos­al. The MRG would rep­re­sent fund­ing from in­di­vid­ual coun­tries to en­sure LI­AT con­tin­ues to fly to their des­ti­na­tions.

Ear­li­er this month, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said LI­AT has been fly­ing un­eco­nom­ic routes that were heav­i­ly sub­sidised, had enough cash for just ten days and could face a shut­down if Cari­com does not in­ter­vene. T&T has a one per cent share in LI­AT, so any fail­ure of the air­line could neg­a­tive­ly im­pact the coun­try.

LI­AT ser­vices T&T with 53 out­go­ing flights a week, fly­ing di­rect­ly to Grena­da, St Lu­cia, St Vin­cent and the Grenadines, Guyana, Bar­ba­dos and An­tigua and Bar­bu­da.

At yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s, in re­sponse to Gon­salves’ claims, Min­is­ter in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter Stu­art Young said, “I don’t have the specifics for that.”

Young said fol­low­ing the PM’s last meet­ing with Cari­com heads ear­li­er this month, he told the coun­try that LI­AT was one of the is­sues re­gion­al lead­ers had dis­cussed, as the air­line had in­di­cat­ed they were fac­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties. (See Page A13)

Un­able to say what trig­gered the re­cent re­ports in the news­pa­pers, Young said he al­so heard “some sug­ges­tions that if T&T does not do cer­tain things there could be a dis­con­tin­u­ance of LI­AT. “

As for the Gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on the mat­ter, Young said that was not with­in his purview. He said whichev­er en­ti­ty is deal­ing with that, they would have the rel­e­vant de­tails, re­fer­ring the mat­ter to the Min­istry of Works and Trans­port and Fi­nance Min­istry, who he said “would in­form us whether that is true” and “how we po­si­tion our­selves.”

Young made it abun­dant­ly clear in a fol­low-up ques­tion that at no point in time will the Gov­ern­ment be fund­ing LI­AT.

“The Prime Min­is­ter did say on his last re­turn from Cari­com that we have a very small per­cent­age share­hold­er. So what we were look­ing at is in­jec­tions of eq­ui­ty. We don’t re­al­ly fall in­to that cat­e­go­ry.”

Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali