LIAT, Scotiabank, regional leadership dominate OECS news conference

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By Caribbean News Now contributor

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — At a news conference Tuesday following the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), two-day meeting, the dominant concerns were matters relating to LIAT’s future, Scotiabank divestment to Republic Financial Holdings Limited and regional leadership.

Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit reiterated that the regional private sector and other stakeholders should consider ownership interest in LIAT and the continued development of the region.

“It is not enough to just say well LIAT is this, LIAT is that – come to the table. If you are not around the table it is going to be very difficult for you to influence the decisions,” Skerrit said. “And so, if you are a party to the negotiations, if you are a party to something, then the ideas which you have can very well find themselves turn into decisions.”

“We just have to close our eyes for a few seconds and appreciate the impact on the way of life of ordinary citizens and businesses in this region if LIAT were to cease its operations … there are economic consequences,” adding, “I think the regional private sector needs to join forces with the governments and all of us in the region need to join forces.”

“LIAT is a very critical part of our survival in Dominica and you cannot remove the airline from the equation. We continue to be a shareholder and Dominica will play a bigger role in LIAT,” he said.

This follows Skerrit’s decision earlier this year to commit Dominica to the “sustainability and sustenance” of LIAT in recognition of the significant economic impact on Dominica’s housing revolution, citizenship by investment (CIP) and the tourism industry.

Dominica PM recognises LIAT’s socio-economic impact

Prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said that while his country is soon to start negotiations with Barbados to purchase its shares in the airline, “we have others who we are having discussions with” referencing, he would be speaking with the premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Andrew Fahie.

Browne is of the view that everyone should be concern about the fate of the regional carrier, placing it towards a path of viability and sustainability.

“We are in a situation where we [Antigua and Barbuda] have offered to take over, if not all, a significant majority of the debts of Barbados and it is not a share grab on the part of Antigua and Barbuda,” noting, Barbados is in a precarious economic situation under the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Extended Fund Facility (EFF) to help restore debt sustainability, strengthen the external position and improve growth prospects.

Concerning Republic Financial Holdings Limited announcement last November, that it has agreed to acquire Scotiabank’s operations in the Eastern Caribbean, both Skerrit and Browne proposition that, the best interest of the people is of paramount importance, “all actions taken should protect the citizens.”

Republic Financial to acquire Scotiabank’s banking operations in nine Caribbean countries; not so fast, says Antigua-Barbuda PM

Browne also requires assurances that local banks will be given priority to purchase the Scotiabank’s operations in Antigua and Barbuda and that local customers’ investments and saving will be protected.

In a letter to the competent authorities of the Bank of Nova Scotia and copied to the chairman of the board of Republic Financial Holdings Limited of Trinidad and Tobago Browne stated: “The government of Antigua and Barbuda makes it clear that its primary concern is to build resilience in the local banking sector and reduce its vulnerability to de-risking strategies employed by foreign-owned entities that weaken our national capacity to participate in the global financial and trading system effectively.”

He added, “It is important that the ownership of the vital banking sector be re-balanced to improve the strength and capacity of local shareholding. This in no way affects foreign-owned banks that now operate in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Antigua-Barbuda PM invites Scotiabank to early meeting to discuss purchase of Antigua holdings

Commenting on the transition of Browne, as the new chairman of the OECS, Skerrit made it abruptly clear that Browne has been “very firm and very resolute, a decisive and principled voice on many regional an international issue.”

He is “constructive and focused” Skerrit emphasised, “In this world, we really need principled, forthright, transparent governments and leaders. Had it not been for reasoned voices like [Gaston] Browne, I think the region and the hemisphere would be in a more difficult position.”

“The region is better off with people like [Gaston] Browne leading our countries,” Skerrit said.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. A lot of rubbish.

    1. “LIAT is a very critical part of our survival in Dominica and you cannot remove the airline from the equation” should have been stated that, “Inexpensive and efficient air transport is a very critical part of our survival in Dominica and if this cannot be provided by LIAT other options must be pursued.”

    2. If “local banks will be given priority to purchase the Scotiabank’s operations in Antigua and Barbuda,” de-risking would only increase because these local banks are the main source of money laundering.

    3. The Bank of Nova Scotia was never a local bank; at least Republic Financial Holdings is a regional one. If Gaston Browne pushes BNS too hard, it will simply take its licks and leave its depositors scrambling to put their money elsewhere. As for its debtors, its seized assests would result in years of litigation. BNS could simply play hardball by subtracting its debts from its liabilites (which would result in a net loss for the bank). Again, the legal fallout would take years to resolve. Gaston Browne is fighting well above his weight level on this one.

  2. LIAT: these very governments killed off RedJet and others thinking they were supporting LIAT but what that did is make LIAT uncompetitive and more importantly gave their citizens,us, the risk of only having one major carrier. This needs to change.

    Banks: people want reasonably priced and efficient banking not more of the same. This region is disastrous and very expensive. Kenya and many other Africans and Asians do most banking for free or near free on their phones and the banks and telcos make money. Scotiabank and Digicel have Tcho Tcho in Haiti but not around the region where we are being screwed. Time for new players.

  3. Since this is a two for one, I will chime in with my two cents. As an indigenous Anguillian, I have issues with both topics. Several years ago, LIAT pulled up stakes from Anguilla and we were left to fend for ourselves. Our CM at the time, Hubert Hughes, famously said we’d have to look to St. Martin for help. I recall being in St. Tomas for a political rally back in 2014 and on the following Sunday morning as I boarded my flight back to California, the rest of my friends did the same thing on LIAT bound for Anguilla. I know you are going to find this hard to believe, but I did get back to California before they got back to Anguilla. How was this possible you ask? Well, they had to fly to Antigua and waait around for another flight that would take them to St. Kitts and then hop another flight to Anguilla.
    With regard to the banking situation in Anguilla, I’m sure that you all know that it’s a sore subject for all of us shareholders of our two now dearly departed local banks thanks to the incompetence of our two successive governments, those of Hubert Hughes and now Victor Banks’ government. I agree with Mr. Browne in his stance and I’m flaberghasted as to why our government didn’t adopt a similar stance. As caribbean people, we are our own worst enemies. We have met the enemy and it is us. When the devil will we get it. My island of Anguilla is slowly being taken over by the Chinese and everyone else who feels like taking a slice and what does our government do? They make it that much easier. I agree that LIAT is a commoditiy that’s very much needed and as the song says, you never miss the water till the well runs dry. Churchill said: “Whe the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply too late he remedies which then might have affected a cure.” There is nothing new here, someone once said that the only thing that West Indians can agree on is that we are all different. We will huff and puff and at the end of the day not a damn thing will be done because that’s who we are. I saw it with LIAT when they pulled out of Anguilla, I saw it with American when they did the same thing after getting us to build a so-called international airport to accomodate their AT60, I also saw it with the loss of our banks, so it stands to reason tht because we are black people considered to be backwards as hell, that anyone considering themselves to be superior to us can come in and do as they please and all with the blessings of our incompetent leaders. I do believe LIAT is an institution that needs to be preserved and I also believe that all of us that have supported Scotia through the years ought to be given first dibs to acquire their respective banks. When will we start looking out for ourselves. A special note on the passing of Prime Minister Edward Seaga in Jamaica. He will be remembered as someone who stood by us and for that we will always be grateful. Also condolences to the family of Mr. Barry Randall, editor of Caribbean News Now. We will miss you both. R.I.P

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