By Kenton X. Chance
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves is lobbying his Kittian and Lucian counterparts to invest in cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.
He has invited Prime Ministers Timothy Harris and Kenny Anthony to a meeting of LIAT shareholders in Barbados on Friday.
The major shareholders of LIAT are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves told I-Witness News that Harris has accepted the invitation to attend the meeting, but Anthony is yet to indicate if he would available be available to attend.
“I am quite sure that if he is available he would come, because from our discussions, he is showing a great interest in getting involved as an equity partner, certainly to provide support within LIAT as we go forward with reforming LIAT, with strengthening.”
Gonsalves said that the shareholders government have already done a tremendous amount of work in reforming the airline, which has completed the upgrade of its fleet from Dash-8 to ATR aircraft.
He, however, admitted that the process of the re-fleeting – which resulted in the “disastrous summer” of long delays in 2013 — was not done as well as it should have been done.
“But we have gone past that. We have an application for additional resources before the Caribbean Development Bank. So, there are very positive things, which are happening for us to go forward,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the 45th meeting of the Board of Directors of the bank, held here Wednesday and Thursday.
“All we have to do now is to make the relevant decisions and for everybody to be committed to this enterprise of improving the airline business the air transport business in the whole Caribbean, and in particular in the eastern and southern Caribbean,” said Gonsalves.
Friday’s meeting comes as Gonsalves said that the possibility of merger of LIAT and the Trinidad and Tobago owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is something that “has to be explored … and to see where the synergies are…
“But the time has come that we have to cross a chasm in something more than baby steps. We have to take a jump and that obviously would have to await the outcome of the elections in Trinidad and Tobago because I don’t expect a government between now and September or whatever the time period for the general election will be preoccupied with other things, but the discussion can start and we can have some idea as to how we are going forward” he said.
During the meeting, there was also a discussion on regional air transport, in which there was the emergence of two main views that LIAT be operated as any regular business, and that in addition to being a business, it performs an important economic function to the region.
Do you hear that giant sucking sound? It’s the money being flushed down the LIAT toilet. Giving money to LIAT is no way to “invest” scarce government funds simply because a legitimate investment carries with it the expectation and possibility of at least breaking even.
Since there is no expectation or possibility of recovering the cost of any investment in LIAT, it is not a legitimate investment. Instead, “investing” in LIAT is actually a genuine gift in the strict sense of the term — an altruistic donation with no expection of getting anything back except maybe gratitude.
None of the owners of LIAT have the ability to endlessly donate to a hopeless endeavour. Instead of constant gift-giving, there should be a one-time fire-sale donation of this hugely indebted airline to a private-sector entity, in the same way that the National Commercial Bank (NCB) was virtually donated to the privately-owned Bank of St. Lucia.
Anything would be an improvement on the present state of this poor excuse of an airline.
What happened to his recent approach to CA to make a buyout of LIAT? Did that get flatly rejected by Trinidad?
Is he trying to divest ourselves of LIAT before they discover that LIAT will not be able to use Argyle for 6 months of the year?
Was he was tricked by Ian Brunton into recommending those next to useless aircraft?
Will SVG have to put US$25 million into LIAT this year to keep it flying?
Should Gonsalves hand over the presidency of the LIAT shareholders association to someone more competent due to his fiscal inadequacy and lack of real knowledge in the subject of aircraft and airline operation?
Let me say, it’s so sad to read the nonsense these two fools write.
First of all the writer of the article in the first instance must address the prime minister properly, you shall refer to him as Mr. Gonsalves, or Mr. Prime Minister not Gonsalves have some respect here.
Now these two fools C Ben and Peter, listen to me you are wasting your time,talking rubbish so I’ll give you some advice.
When to wake up tomorrow go into your backyard and take a good look at yourselves, and say to yourself,what can I do for St. Vincent, I hope you then can realize that at this late stage in your lives that you are useless. St. Vincent has gone and left you .
Luther, do you think he gives any thought to eticate or respect when he call our citizens nasty names and name designed to injour their very characture.
Unless people like us bring the truth to the people they will go on thinking that this man is OK. He is not he has destroyed the very routes of our well being.
Stupid people like you are the cause of much of our woes. If you want to support a pretend labour party, a Marxist led party wearing the cloak of labour, so be it, but don’t expect others to be as silly as you.
I am a Vincentian, so don’t tell me what the P.M. says, and didn’t say, I have ears and eyes.
So what nasty names you talking about, that I did not hear.
I’ll understand that people like you would be call nasty names, and this is what happened.
So consider yourself and your clones lucky for in some counties you will be jailed or shot.
Tell me something for all the nonsense you and others write, why is he poised to win again for the fourth time.
So you have heard all the nasty name calling, and that is OK with you. Is that what your saying?
The only nonsense is what you write. I suppose you belong to the same Obeah group?
Boot licker. I often laughing when I hear people refer to the man as Honorable. This man name should never be in any sentence with that word. That is the problem in SVG when people speak the truth they are call Fools. Honorable Please there’s nothing honorable bout that man.
The name Hope is so fitting, You keep hoping, your life is like a oneway street. You’ll be nothing, and no one knows you,and they never will.
Mr.Gonsalves is The PM. The question is what have you ever done for St. Vincent ? All you know is your two mouths. Garbage in and garbage out.
Open Letter To The Majority Shareholders Of LIAT
Since before 2012 I have repeatedly heard of calls by the current majority shareholders of LIAT, through Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent, to take up more shares or to simply contribute towards the airline’s losses.
Gentlemen, I can reveal to the Press that you know my own name well by now, it has been before you literally hundreds of times both privately through letters, emails, faxes, text messages, and recently in public in the Press.
For almost a decade I have been trying to communicate with you mostly for just one reason, and that is to take the politics and non-competence in aviation out of eastern Caribbean aviation, whether that is at the Civil Aviation Department (or Civil Aviation Authority) level or at the airline level (meaning LIAT).
Example: Barbados is ICAO Category Two for one simple reason – incompetence, lack of proper regulations and lack of oversight. With a little more interest, Barbados could be Category One, but for the last decade nobody has been interested. Last time the FAA visited to conduct an evaluation, when they left they told the Civil Aviation people it was so bad that they ought not to bother to call for the next evaluation for at least another ten years.
But for some five decades LIAT has been abused as much as your own taxpayers for no good reason. Board after Board, management after management continue to be politically appointed buffoons – whether they are your “friends” or not – who know little or nothing about aviation (which is NOT the same as tourism) and continue to lose money and market share to the point where the airline is now on the brink of the precipice.
And you need not respond that this is not the case, because if all were well you would not be out in public DEMANDING that other governments join you in throwing money at the existing form of LIAT to keep it alive.
Since at least 2012 Dr. Kenny Anthony has told you, in public, that his country’s taxpayers would not be supporting LIAT’s excesses, and that if you wanted St. Lucia at the airline’s table you had to make major changes in its oversight (Board) and management.
NOTHING HAS CHANGED, yet now here you are again making the same demands.
And in the process you are also trying to rope a brand new Prime Minister into the fold before he can catch his breath after the election. SHAME!
Dr. Kenny Anthony asked you from the start to review management – not once, but several times.
Hoteliers through the islands have called for the resignation of Dr. Gonsalves and/or the Chairman of LIAT – also not once, but several times.
The current Board have sailed through screwup after multi-million dollar loss after “meltdown” after endless delays and cancellations after customer complaints, and there seems to be no responsibility, and no accountability. How can a Board and management perform SO BADLY, and yet continue on with “business as usual” – as if disaster after disaster were all perfectly normal?
Let’s talk business: My considered forecast is that LIAT has less than two years to exist before either the CDB – or some other creditor group – chains its doors and sells the airplanes for debt. There is good reason for this forecast… LIAT’s total passenger load (= income, revenue) in the last year was HALF what it was the year before, yet the expenses remain the same – or even greater, considering the constant arrival/delivery of new airplanes.
As LIAT’s light grows dimmer, users of the airline are gladly moving to other carriers, making other arrangements, finding some other way to travel than the still-late, still-cancelled, still-abusive LIAT. Hoteliers are deliberately telling their overseas guests how to get there without touching LIAT. New airlines are starting up and taking market share away, simply because so few people are willing to put up with the LIAT nonsense any more.
I will repeat my simple request to you so that the entire reading public can see it and make up their own minds as to whether I am a raving lunatic or a frustrated professional.
1. Take the politics – and politicians – OUT of LIAT. No more political commissars on the LIAT management payroll drawing a fat salary to ensure some politician’s orders are being carried out.
2. Take the political appointees out of LIAT, at all levels. All of them.
3. Remove the entire current Board and install new Board Members composed of intelligent and knowledgeable persons, with the primary required practical knowledgeset of how an airline should be run, give them the basic mandate and and let them be the overall deciders of where the airline should be headed.
4. Remove the current Executive of LIAT – no matter the cost, given what they are costing the shareholders now – and require the new Board to find qualified competent people with drive and imagination who can turn the airline around in less than six months.
5. Make it clear to the Board that their mandate is that the airline should at least break even.
6. The Board in turn is to make it clear to the executive management that their job is to turn the airline around, and that the airline should at least break even – or that they will lose their jobs. Executive management has no claim to tenure.
7. If the Board cannot get management to at least break even, then they will also lose their jobs. A Board has no claim to tenure either.
In short, turn LIAT over to real aviation professionals, and demand that they perform or be removed.
Regardless of what PM Gonsalves claims, there can be no doubt whatsoever that LIAT is, in truth and in fact, currently a “black hole” into which he and his partners are throwing away their money. For those too young to know, LIAT did have a subvention scheme before where each government made up their portion of the loss, but that disappeared at one shareholders meeting – in St. Lucia – where they all agreed to disagree on the percentages, they all walked out, and LIAT was thrown to the wolves.
I personally have no objection to LIAT going back to a subvention arrangement, for the same reasons stated – multipler effect, regional inter-island transportation, etc. – but the cost will be so great that most shareholders will repeat the long-ago St. Lucia meeting performance and eventually disconnect from the whole sorry and disgusting performance.
I have a final suggestion – and request. While you take LIAT out from under the political bedsheets, also make its annual accounts public, so that the taxpayers whose hard-earned dollars go towards supporting it at are least able to see how their money was spent. And please, don’t let us be told again, in no uncertain terms, that LIAT’s accounts are “none of our damned business” – the airline is paid for by public money and that public has a right to an accounting.
In my opinion, if LIAT is to survive there is required massive CHANGE at the airline. Change of Board, change of management, change of attitude, and change in the way things are done – from the politicians at the top all the way to the employees at the bottom, and very soon.
Gentlemen, the ball is in your court. Change LIAT, or the airline will die. And don’t say nobody warned you… I am not the first to make such appeals for sanity and logic when it comes to our once-loved inter-island bus service.
James C. Lynch, Captain (ex-LIAT)
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