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