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A LIAT ATR-72 aircraft.
A LIAT ATR-72 aircraft.

Public comments about LIAT’s latest crisis made by participants at last month’s CARICOM meeting have been unhelpful for the cash-strapped airline, which needs US$5.4 million to continue flying.

The principal shareholder government of LIAT provided information to the meeting about the current financial condition and the immediate prospects for the survival or the development of LIAT in its existing framework, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on Monday.

Gonsalves, who is chair of LIAT’s shareholder governments, said some persons attending the CARICOM gathering “did not heed my request, settled and agreed upon, not to address this matter publicly until the shareholders and other prospective governments had an opportunity to resolve further some thorny issues touching and concerning LIAT,” Gonsalves said.

He said that, unhelpfully, some participants at the conference “could not resist the temptation on leaving the conference to alarm the public with declarations such as ‘LIAT will run out of cash to operate in 10 days’, ‘LIAT will close down by the end of March 2019 if reluctant shareholder governments do not cough up some money’ ‘Even Ralph is fed up with LIAT’”.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica are the major shareholder governments in the regional carrier.

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Trinidad and Tobago has a one per cent shareholding, which Prime Minister Keith Rowley said his government does not acknowledge.

Rowley told a news conference at the Piarco International Airport on his return home on Feb. 28 that CARICOM leaders were told at the meeting in St. Kitts and Nevis that LIAT has enough “cash to last for 10 days”.

Gonsalves, who did not identify, by name, any of the subjects of his comments, said that one or two others who were not at the conference decided, with hearsay and misinformation, to spread further fear and alarm.

“One minister even dusted off an insulting and tired declaration that his government ‘is not going to be an ATM machine for LIAT,” Gonsalves said.

After LIAT’s latest problem became public, Kerrie Symmonds, minister of tourism in Barbados, LIAT’s largest shareholder, said that his country would not be the only ATM for LIAT.

Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Symmonds said that while Bridgetown remained interested in keeping the airline running, other governments would have to contribute.

Gonsalves told lawmakers that history, in all its banality, through infelicitous language, repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.

“The farcical outbursts had a predictably damaging effect on LIAT in terms of reputational damage, uncertainty among the large travelling public across the region and a rush by LIAT’s creditors for monies owed before the supposedly imminent arrival of doomsday.”

Gonsalves said that it is precisely because of his appreciation of the likely adverse impact of “unfiltered, unnecessarily alarmist or even wrong pronouncements, that I had urged restraint in public utterances for the time being on this most vital matter”.

He said that such pronouncements even prompted inquiries to LIAT’s management from the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States about LIAT’s capacity to service its routes to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“In the wake of this unwarranted and gratuitous damage to LIAT, its management was compelled to issue a statement distancing itself from the doomsday scenarios and provide assurances of continued services,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves, on Monday, travelled to Barbados for a meeting of the major shareholder governments, along with the airline’s management and the trade unions representing its employees, to discuss the latest crisis facing the airline.

The outcome of that meeting is yet to be made public.

4 replies on “Comments after CARICOM briefing damaged LIAT’s reputation — Gonsalves”

  1. Nothing wrong with being forthright and upfront about LIAT..It’s the tax payers money and they should be the first to know how their money is being spent..Mr Rowley is being transparent..

  2. Anyone who has been on earth any amount of years and paid attention to world events knows that most of what a “sitting”politician says is rarely ever true. Gonsalves is a master at being able to convince people to believe anything; at the same time he is proven to be incompetent in all maters relang to economics (except his own personal economics). Expect a big loan to come from somewhere and an increase in taxes to follow in about a year, to cover Liat and the usual other economic fiascos.

    Strange that many people and entities like IWN believe the people should be kept informed and many politicians believe the people should be kept in the dark. Maybe if things were done transparently Liat would not have problems. but at the same time certain entities in certain shareholder governments would not be making the big profits that they have been and will probably continue to do .

  3. Elma Gabriel says:

    Yes; it is a fact that “history in all its banality, through infelicitous language, repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farces.” I ask myself repeatedly, what is wrong with our Caribbean people; the most diverse society in the world, blessed with such assets but when it comes to unification all we have preserved so far is carnival? Yes the physique, a seasonal disguise of a people in turmoil.

    Let’s use the ‘Pig’ as our Caribbean talisman. If some sees it as a dead ‘Pig’, then their first effort will be to thrown in their towel. However, while those that see the pig as sick will always focus on reviving the ailing ‘Pig’.
    We the voters and people of the Caribbean are intelligent people, who know that it really doesn’t matter what may be our individual property value or accomplishments; the ultimate is the ability for our leaders to work together if we are going to build on a positive future within our CARICOM region.

    In the end, it is up to us regardless of party politics to rally behind the various Island PMs, those who focuses on Caribbean unification; as those are they who are determine to the revival of the ailing ‘Pig’.

    Where has it gone, our purity?
    And let’s not forget the generosity.
    Where has it gone, our empathy?
    So let’s not trample on our society.
    Where has it gone, our integrity?
    We people of morality.
    Where has gone, that spirituality?
    That was there since before liberality.
    Where has it gone, our loyalty?
    It is critical to building unity.
    Where has it gone, our continuality?
    That led to finality.
    Where has it gone, our simplicity?
    That helps in humility.
    Where has it gone, our creativity?
    It is part of our heredity.
    Where has it gone, our rituality?
    That creates our humanity.
    Please! Let’s strengthen our nationality,
    And stride on for unanimity.

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