St. Vincent to hold ‘prime ministerial meeting’ on LIAT

Gonsalves, Closure, Liat

Heads of government from five Caribbean countries are expected to attend a meeting on the regional airline, LIAT, to be held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday.

A government statement issued in Antigua said that the Cabinet had discussed the upcoming “Prime Ministerial meeting” regarding funding alternatives “to ensure that the regional carrier continues to serve the Caribbean well.”

LIAT’s major shareholders are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent ad the Grenadines and last week, LIAT’s chief executive officer, Julie Reifer-Jones, acknowledged that while the airline is facing severe financial problems, it would continue flying through the region with support from its principal shareholders.

LIAT currently operates 491 flights weekly across its network of 15 destinations.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the issue facing LIAT had been discussed at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) inter-sessional summit held in St. Kitts last month.

“The Caribbean Development Bank did a study some time last year in which they concluded that the most expensive option to pursue is to allow LIAT to collapse because we would have to form a new entity. That is just more expensive than having a restructuring of LIAT,” Browne said.

According to the statement issued after the Cabinet meeting, “the states which enjoy services from LIAT, but are not owners of LIAT’s shares, are likely to be asked by the four contributing/ownership states to purchase shares in LIAT, or to make a financial contribution, or to enter into a minimum revenue guarantee for LIAT flights which enter into their countries.

“The request will go out to Guyana, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts/Nevis; their Heads of Government are expected to attend the meeting on Saturday, March 9, 2019,” the statement noted.

It said that the meeting in St. Vincent “is expected to delve deeper into the circumstances of LIAT’s financial needs” than had been discussed during the CARICOM Inter-sessional summit.

The meeting will also be attended by LIAT’s executive managers.