Last update: 09-Dec-2013 4:37 pm
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Gonsalves coming for talks on Liat
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is calling for heads of regional governments to pitch in and prop up Liat, since all the islands have been using the airline throughout its 50-year existence. He said it was in their interest to support the struggling carrier. In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Gonsalves said Liat would be in a better postion if the responsibility of managing the airline was shared throughout the region. He said there was need for market support for Liat within the Caribbean.
Gonsalves’ call came ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday. Gonsalves was reacting to Monday’s announcement by Finance Minister Larry Howai that CAL’s subsidy would be removed effective October 1. In May, Gonsalves described the subsidy as “unfair,” he also said the subsidy was a breach of the Caricom Air Services Agreement.
He now believes there is a level playing field in the regional airline industry and wants to strategically position Liat to compete. His first strategy is to re-fleet and then restructure. “In the airline busines you are not looking to make any serious financial returns on your investment—it’s an economic and social venture and you want to break even and have a little surplus. That’s the nature of these enterprises.
“We’ve had challenges. Remember, Liat has been in the air for over 50 years, I have been chairman for 13 years. We’ve been riding the challenges, it has not been easy.” Asked whether he wanted any other aspects of CAL’s operations changed, he said: “I am not really putting my mouth in CAL’s business, other than the issue regarding the subsidy which affected us.” Gonsalves said already there are improvements in Liat.
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