Barbados Gov't defends LIATTuesday, November 22, 2016
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados Government Tuesday defended the operations of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, even as Opposition legislators called for it to stop being a financial burden on the island.
Both Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his finance minister, Chris Sinckler, defended the airline, whose major shareholders are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Stuart, speaking in Parliament, said that despite the criticism, the value of the airline should not be underestimated as the Antigua-based LIAT remains “important to Barbados.
“The Barbados market accounts for about 20 per cent of LIAT’s total passenger revenue. LIAT is important to Barbados. In 2012, according to the information made available to me, LIAT facilitated US$145 million in incoming tourism expenditure to the Barbados economy.
“LIAT…the airline, has contributed much to the Caribbean and it should be given credit for it,” Stuart told legislators, noting “we have had to prop it up.
“We prop up American Airlines; we prop up extra regional carriers to bring tourists from all over the place. What can be wrong with appearing to prop up our regional airline,” Stuart said, adding that his administration is working towards a stronger LIAT.
“LIAT has done more to keep the people of the Caribbean together and to facilitate movement between …the islands than any other airline that we have seen pass through.
“I use the expression pass through deliberately because they just pass through, they don’t stay. LIAT has had the stamina and the staying power to guarantee us the ability to travel across this region, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for the last 60 years and I am thankful for that and I am sure that the people of the Caribbean are thankful for that as well,” he added.
Opposition legislator Ronald Toppin has queried the injection of funds into the airline saying that it is a burden on Barbados.
“I dare say…that it really cannot continue. LIAT has now been subsidised for some 42 years and it really needs now to become a low cost efficient model carrier.
“It is really high time…that serious decisions are made and taken in relation to LIAT. So the time has come where we cannot any longer shelve the need to take some very serious decisions in relation to LIAT,” he told legislators.
But Finance Minister Sinckler said Barbados could have become the majority shareholder of the airline but this was not something the government wanted to accomplish.
“That is certainly not what other governments wanted to happen because it is a regional airline shared by thoughts and experience and intervention by other governments,” Sinckler said, noting that he was certain the issue of ownership would come up again.
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