Gonsalves tells govts no ‘buccaneer investors’ will be acceptable.
One hundred days!
That is the time frame within which the board of regional airline LIAT has given management to implement a recovery programme, including cutting unprofitable routes and getting the non-shareholder governments to invest.
Immediately following a meeting with the board at Hilton Barbados this evening, chairman of the Committee of Shareholder Governments, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, told a Press conference, they had mandated the board to move speedily within a framework, to get the airline fixed.
Suggesting there was enough discussion on the matter already, Gonsalves insisted that it was past time for management to carry out the restructuring of the 58-year-old airline.
He said it could not be fair for the current four shareholders –– Barbados, Antigua, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica –– to continuing bearing the financial burden of LIAT plying its unprofitable routes and for the other Caribbean territories to keep benefiting without investing.
Chairman of the airline’s board, Jean Holder, announced that the company had embarked on a 100-day programme to “get a number of things done”.
Holder was responding to reporters’ insistence that he give a deadline for these things to be done, including the intended cutting of unprofitable routes and pressuring non-shareholder governments to get on board.
Gonsalves intervened by saying that he was putting pressure on his fellow colleagues, other leaders who benefited from the LIAT service, who had not invested any money, to do so.
“I am waiting to see when action will be taken (by LIAT) against these governments who are not on board,” declared the shareholder committee head.
He said, too, he would welcome investment from the private sector, but made it clear, he did want what he termed any “buccaneer investors”.
Only serious private sector interests would be accepted, added, Gonsalves.
He also pointed an accusing finger at management, which he said had made some missteps, but stated that there were some achievements as well.
The prime minister said the chairman Holder and acting chief executive officer Julie Reifer-Jones had made presentations to them this evening which outlined a plan for sustainable recovery of the airline, as well as an immediate programme for implementation.
The airline disclosed that an expert would be hired to assess the unprofitable routes which would not only entail cutting, but rescheduling or reviewing them.