By Caribbean News Now contributor
ARGYLE, St Vincent — Regional prime ministers, Antigua and Barbuda’s Gaston Browne; Barbados’ Mia Mottley; Grenada’s Dr Keith Mitchell; and Saint Lucia’s Allen Chastanet joined the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on Monday at the Argyle International Airport in St Vincent for an update on the technical committee report on the restructuring of regional air carrier LIAT.
The meeting of the shareholder governments, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and SVG, was chaired by Gonsalves and also in attendance were Irwin La Rocque, secretary general of CARICOM; Jean Holder, chairman of the LIAT board; Julie Reifier-Jones, CEO of LIAT; and Dr Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
LIAT is currently engaged in restructuring as part of its efforts to achieve greater profitability and improve efficiency, amidst concerns that the travelling public must be better served and intra-regional travel encouraged.
The meeting was also expected to discuss a number of options intended to secure the future viability of the regional carrier.
Gonsalves noted that, while LIAT has made an invaluable contribution to Caribbean development, the Antigua-based airline has been challenged by some weaknesses and limitations.
Gonsalves told reporters that he feared that “if we don’t seek to enhance those strengths and possibilities and simply get the weaknesses and the limitations out of the way we are not likely to have something which is sustainable”.
He said that this is not “just fancy words this is a reality check”.
According to Gonsalves, the technical committee has made recommendations as to possible options and at the last meeting of the shareholders, a few months ago, the principal shareholders accepted the recommendation of one of the options as possibly the most viable of them.
“That is to say an option other than an option for a private sector takeover which was not realistic in the circumstances and the second option, closing the airline and start a new one. It was felt that it had some challenges, particularly in a transitional period, possible and doable but difficult,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said that Saint Lucia and Grenada are willing to commit to the restructuring, providing that it is carried out in a particular manner that will garner the support of their respective parliaments and country.