Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding flew into Trinidad yesterday to hold emergency talks on Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines aimed at securing the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a US$1.2 billion loan that would be a lifeline for the sinking Jamaican economy.
The IMF has insisted that Jamaica divest Air Jamaica as a conditionality of the loan. Golding is expected to announce the agreement with the IMF in a highly anticipated speech today and the surprise visit to Trinidad on eve of his address was immediately taken by Jamaican sources to mean that the merger or acquisition of Air Jamaica by Caribbean Airlines was discussed.
There was no acknowledgment of the relationship between Golding's visit and the imminent IMF agreement in a statement put out by T&T's Office of the Prime Minister, which said only that the talks "related to both Caribbean air carriers." Trade and Industry Minister Mariano Browne has confirmed that a meeting to discuss Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines Ltd took place yesterday at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. According to a release from the Office of the Prime Minister, issued at 6.02 pm, Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding and a high level delegation from Jamaica met with Acting Prime Minister Dr Lenny Saith, Finance Minister Karen Tesheira and Browne. Golding left T&T following the meeting.
In a brief phone call last evening, Browne said: "The meeting did take place and the talks took place, but I cannot disclose further. Whatever is in the press release is the only information to be released." Ian Brunton, chief executive officer, Caribbean Airlines, said he was not part of the talks and could not divulge any information. But in an interview with the Business Guardian in October, Brunton said talks about a possible merger between Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines were ongoing.
"If Air Jamaica comes–it did come–we were asked to bid on it by the government of Jamaica. We did. It appears we were not winners in that process, but it has not settled yet because the government of Jamaica has not made up its mind yet. It can still happen," Brunton had said.