LIAT Governments meet in Barbados with potential equity partners

At least two regional governments have expressed an interest in purchasing equity in the cash-strapped LIAT.

Word of this from the chairman of the shareholder governments, Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, while revealing that the newly-elected Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis Dr Timothy Harris had accepted an invitation to take part in tomorrow’s shareholders’ meeting in Bridgetown.

Gonsalves also reported that his St Lucian counterpart Dr Kenny Anthony had been invited to the talks involving him and three other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) prime ministers, whose governments currently account for LIAT’s total equity.

However, Anthony was yet to confirm his participation in Friday’s meeting, which is also due to be attended by Barbados’ Freundel Stuart, Antigua & Barbuda’s Gaston Browne and Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit.

St Vincent's prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves
St Vincent’s prime minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

“I am quite sure if he [Anthony] is available he will come, because from our discussions he is showing a great interest in getting involved as an equity partner, certainly to provide support within LIAT as we go forward with reforming LIAT and strengthening it,” said Gonsalves, ahead of the high-level talks.

The move to increase LIAT’s shareholder base comes against the backdrop of a new study on Making Air Transport Work Better for the Caribbean, which has revealed that LIAT, Caribbean Airlines and Bahamas Air were consistently recording losses of about a billion US dollars collectively.

The study, which was carried out between the last quarter of 2014 and March 2015, also stresses the need for greater co-operation among regional governments and carriers, including foreign airlines, as well as harmonization of administrative and regulatory policy and operations.

It also calls for the setting up of “a ‘quick-wins’ CARICOM-centric Airlines Association to share best practice and identify cost reduction and revenue enhancement opportunities that could be pursued jointly”.

Gonsalves, who was speaking on the sidelines of the 45th meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in Basseterre earlier this week, where the new research was presented, also revealed that an application was currently before the Barbados-based CDB for additional resources for the Antigua-based LIAT.

“All we have do now is to make the relevant decisions and for everybody to commit to this enterprise of improving the airline business in the whole of the Caribbean,” he said.

At the same time, he suggested that a possible merger between LIAT and the Trinidad and Tobago-owned Caribbean Airlines was not off the table, but said the matter was still to be explored to see where there were possible synergies.

“The time has come that we have to cross a chasm, in something more than baby steps. We have to take a jump and that obviously would have to await the outcome of the elections in Trinidad and Tobago because I don’t expect a government between now and September or whatever the time period for the general election, will be preoccupied with other things [than the election].”

The Vincentian leader however said he was prepared to begin the discussion “as to how we are going forward”.

Other proposals contained in the study are for the creation a high-level Air Transport Reform Authority to address longer-term structural, institutional and industrial barriers.

The new body would be made up of “proven aviation professionals, accountable to the region’s taxpayers that would devise a regional aviation plan [and] develop a safe and efficient regional air transport sector”.

“The Authority would also review the aviation network
and connectivity needs of the region as a whole, with a view to integrating network schedules using all the available
assets – including the smaller aircraft of the third tier carriers.”

8 Responses to NEW WAY

  1. Alex Alleyne May 22, 2015 at 6:03 am

    Is LIAT coming to BARBADOS or not ?????.

  2. Tony Webster May 22, 2015 at 6:18 am

    If any venture, especially one like LIAT, is losing money, the “solution” is definitely not to just pour in more cash from existing or new shareholders! Listen carefully to what C.D.B. has to say; “take de medicine” so prescribed; and at least for ten years, we should have some decent intra-Caribbean air services, at affordable prices.
    Cuba flights? Well, that is at a flight-level above me. I suggest leave dat alone: Butch can launch “Sandals In The Sky” wid Raul. Should be a really big happy party.

  3. jrsmith May 22, 2015 at 6:31 am

    This partnership wouldn’t work. this type of corporate business cannot be handled by politicians, they are not that business orientated. This type of project needs financial back bone , which cannot be guaranteed by any regional government.
    Find a private corporate investor, no attachment to any regional government, then which ever island government needs to become share holders can do so at the they tax payers risks.

  4. Patrick Blackman May 22, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Liat will never be a viable entity until the regional governments stop treating it like an ATM machine. Look at the cost structure of a simple ticket to travel on Liat and you will see the problem. Get the governments out of Liat and the airline would flourish. Look at what happen to BNB when the government left, just as simple as that.

    The regional governments never understood what regional integration means, they always think of themselves first not realizing that the outside world just see us as one entity regardless of how we feel about ourselves.

    The only way this region can survive in the tourism industry is to market the region as a whole with may be a 1 for each island in the add identifying its unique characteristics.

    We need to have a clearly articulated tourism develoment policy, why are we having tourism meetings in Florida? Just saying… we need to stop the infighting at all levels across the region in every domain. This crap needs to end.

    • James Lynch May 22, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      Ralph has stated – on camera – that the current model LIAT is operating under is the correct one. That is, lose money and owners subsidise because LIAT has a “multiplier effect” and the sub-region cannot do without air transportation.

      Ralph goes as far as to tell all those – including me – that the “LIAT black hole” comments are out of line, and that we should stop using such terms.

      Well, Ralphie Boy, hear this. As long as LIAT is run as a private political football and taxpayers are footing the bill, I and others have the right – and the di\uty – to call a spade a spade and a janitor a janitor, and this, Comrade, is a LIAT black hole.

      If you keep flushing the people money down the toilet, at some point there will be no more peoples money. And as an avowed Marxist you should be dloing better than wasting the incomes of the proletariat when the business can be run perfectly well at break even if you will SIMPLY DO THINGS PROPERLY.

      But Comrade Holder continues to come out of his cave ocasionally to whisper sweet nothings befiore he goes back to writing sweet nothings about tourism, and apperalt we will continue down this road.

      Which leads to bankruptcy, Sir. If you will not set the business straight, at some point – in the near future – the bailiffs will padlock the entire network one night and none of you will have enough to pay the bills and get it going again.

      Or is that the true strategy to set the blame elsewhere than on YOUR shoulders? Believe me, Comrade, if that happens I will make my personal business to ensure that nobody forgets YOUR arrogant, incompetent place in this unfolding sub-regional catastrophe.

  5. Alex Alleyne May 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    I cannot visit my Caribbean friends at will. Fares too high for just 20 minutes flight on LIAT. No compitition so the passengers are taken to the cleaners . MIAMI is cheaper so we all meet there , have some drinks , eat some food and spend some money. All this can be done in the Caribbean only if one can fly LIAT at a cost that feel right .

  6. James Lynch May 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    The problem with the government-owned regional carriers is simple: Political interference and involvement which results in an incompetent, uncaring, unresponsive and unaccountable Board and management.

    The politician shareholder representatives (usually Prime Ministers) who oversee such airlines should approach these national and regional entities as a business, not as a political resource, appoint Boards of individuals who have qualifications, knowledge and experience in aviation, and mandate them to break even or make a profit.

    If the management the Board appoints cannot break even or make a profit, then the Board should replace them. And if the Board cannot perform their function then the shareholder/s should replace the Board.

    The Caribbean taxpayer has supported this sheer incompetence financially for over four decades; for once the shareholders should “get their act together” and themselves start acting professionally – get OUT of aviation and let the professionals do their work.

    As long as politics continues to make all of the decisions in Caribbean aviation, the taxpayer will continue to bear the heavy financial burden of incompetence.

  7. James Lynch May 24, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    This “Air Transport Reform Authority” is the same “umbrella airline” proposal I made back in 2009.
    I guess somebody is doing some internet research looking for ideas, because the shareholders ande their “crew” certainly don’t have any. Bankrupt of cash and bankrupt of ideas, all at the same time – why am I not suprised? Yet they claim to know know EVERYthing.

    It’s the DUMBASS Labour Party, remember…

    And while they may have been invited, neither newly-elected Prime Minister of St Kitts & Nevis Dr Timothy Harris nor St Lucian Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony came to the meeting. No fix = no money.

    Just to clarify things for Bajans (and I am one), LIAT was NEVER based in Barbados, no matter what the politicians may tell you. Barbados has had PILOTS (and Flight Attendants) based there, but the Head Office and registered headquarters has ALWAYS been located in Antigua.


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