Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has made it clear that he is not fed up of regional carrier LIAT, which has asked eight Caribbean governments to contribute US$5.4 million in emergency financing to help it out of its most recent crisis.

The airline’s four main shareholder governments — Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica – have adopted what is called “the Restructuring Option”, which will require US$152 million in funding.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Gonsalves said there are people who are in love with problems or are stuffed with learned helplessness.

“I happen to be in love with solutions. Air transport in the region is in a state of flux and change. We must not be dinosaur-like and reject adaptations and alterations, and inertia in the face of challenges is a menace to progress.”

He said that in all of the discussions he has avoided polemic posturing.

“People have called me, all about, the journalist want a story. Well, there are enough people talking out of turn,” Gonsalves said.

He was speaking in apparent reference to his earlier comments about public statements by some persons who attended last month’s CARICOM meeting, after they were briefed about LIAT’s latest challenges.

Gonsalves said the comments had damaged LIAT’s reputation.

“I wanted a meeting of the shareholders, because a CARICOM meeting or an OECS meeting is a meeting for information to be provided,” Gonsalves said about his silence, until Monday, on the issue.

“Good corporate governance demands that the decisions are taken in LIAT even though you would give information to your colleagues and you would give information, because of the regional nature of this service, to the OECS Authority and also to CARICOM, but we have to observe good corporate governance. And I am only talking after we have gone through that particular structure,” Gonsalves said.

“One prime minister has said even Ralph is fed up with LIAT. I am not,” he said, apparently referring to comments that Prime Minister of Grenada Keith Mitchell had made in 2016 when the airline was facing another crisis.

The comments re-emerged after the developments over the past few weeks, when Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, immediately on returning home from the CARICOM meeting, told the media that LIAT only had enough cash to last 10 days.

Gonsalves said:

“I’m fed up with some governments who fail and or refuse to contribute to the funding of this vital regional service. I am fed up, too, with some other stakeholders who cling to ‘legacies’, whether at the workplace, in management or procurement.

“I helped to save LIAT and regional air transportation from Allan Stanford when others were in bed fully with him. So I am not fed up with LIAT. But further significant changes in and of it are on the immediate horizon.”

Gonsalves told lawmakers that there are three possible paths for LIAT: an orderly dissolution and bankruptcy; a disorderly dissolution and disruptive bankruptcy; or a sensible restructuring. 

He said that SVG is advocating a sensible restructuring and seeking to implement it along with the other shareholders.

 “But stakeholders must step up to the plate in this exercise,” Gonsalves said.

He urged that CARICOM leaders be “more circumspect in addressing the business of a company which has its own structure of corporate governance.

“Further unwise outbursts would scare LIAT’s lessors, disturb the air transport regulators, create uncertainty among staff and alarm the public, contribute to disorderliness in the company, agitate creditors to hustle for payment of debts owed to them by LIAT, prompt passengers to seek refunds, and push air travellers to seek other travel options or cancel travel altogether,” Gonsalves said.

“Let us all be mature in addressing a serious challenge before us,” Gonsalves further said, adding that he would make public the details of the minimum revenue guarantee agreements with LIAT’s destinations when they are finalised. 

“I shall provide, too, further relevant updates,” Gonsalves said.

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15 Comments

  1. Get rid of liat let them go open the region to other airline company it would be cheaper for us.i cant understand this airline is just so expensive and are they doing with all those money? Something is wrong it is clear that this thing isn’t working forget it lets move on lets learn to ride on the wave of change

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  2. C. ben-David says:

    Ralph Gonsalves says, “We must not be dinosaur-like and reject adaptations and alterations” when he refuses to acknowledge that LIAT itself, as a government-owned ariline, is itself a dinosaur because all but the wealthiest or most socialist of countries in the world have long sold their money losing state airlines to the public sector where they have generally thrived.

    LIAT needs to be sold unless the aim of the four principal owners is for it to continue to be an indebted money losing entity for all time.

    Restructuring a dinosaur only gives you a restructured dinosaur.

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    1. Excellent reply C.Ben. A restructured dinosaur, LOL Great! The weird economics of Ralph never cease to amaze. Crumbs and laziness for the poor, priveledge for the connected wealthy, bills for the middle-class and debt for all!
      I wonder how much the costs will go up for a Liat flight. It may already be the most expensive airline in the world. Or maybe we will have taxes raised elsewhere to cover the perpetual losses.

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  3. Elma Gabriel says:

    A wise leader knows that the covenants related to being a real leader includes the welcoming of challenges. In otherward; vision-without-borders motivates action, positive thinking.
    Our people cannot only rely on foreign transport. The reality is that Liat may be experiencing financial difficulties but it is better to focus on restructuring of the local transportation already possessed, than on possibilities. The risk to keeping and preserving is the greatest satisfaction to success. It is most unfortunate to have lazy leaders who gravitate to shortcuts.

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  4. Anthony Spencer says:

    Sounds level headed, unlike what am accustomed to from my own. But option 1 is the better option if they first put a new business plan together for a quick restart of a new carricom governments owned essential airline. This way all governments in the region should see it as a true essential service and treat it as they aught to.

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    1. I disagree Spencer. Liat has been having trouble from the very beginning. It does not matter who the manager is. The problem is the demands and taxes placed on Liat from the very stupid shareholder governments, Gonsalves in particular. Any entity Gonsalves is involved with always fails economically, in spite of all the money thrown at it. The restructuring has to be NOT Liat but the relationship with Liat and the shareholders, the costs and taxes, as well as the demands imposed on that company that cause it to operate at a loss. One example is the inefficient airplanes Liat has. Bought because Gonsalves got a good deal on them. The seller could not sell these airlines to anyone because no one wanted them; thus, the good deal that hurts Liat in the long term, such as what we are seeing right now.
      By now anyone should notice that Gonsalves is a short-term thinker making decisions for reasons other than long-term economic prosperity and security.

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  5. The usual Gonsalves inaccurate facts, exaggerations, boasting and lack of saying anything concrete that will solve the problem. He says he loves solutions. He may love being in charge of proposing and implementing solutions because he can always make sure that it includes benefits for he himself. Look at the roads in SVG, the unemployment situation, the crime, the debt! If he loves solutions where are the solutions to the SVG problems?

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  6. I used to fly to Barbados from Canada for about $250.; Then there was a six hour wait for the one hour Liat flight to St Vincent for almost as much money. LIAT never coordinated its flights with international flights. SVG Air on the other hand intercepted passengers as they got off their planes, no customs, no wait. I used to go to Bequia first. I’d be there before sunset. With LIAT it could be almost 24 hours before I reached my destination, six hours waiting at the airport. Now you have a new international airporIt’s still a very long flight, no movies, no meals, and quite expensive. Any tourist in St Vincent really suffered a lot to get there. I stay two months when I come, but it’s brutal getting here, and LIAT didn’t help.

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    1. Great comment doud13. Too bad Gonsalves just does not care. Liat is not allowed to operate frugally and to suit the customers The airline is there for the priveledge of Gonsalves and his friends and the people come last. Only the rich can fly Liat regularly. That is why all the vacant seats.

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  7. Horses for courses!

    You would not let your mechanic take out your appendices, so why on earth would you let your wannabe pseudo-socialist Lawyer, make pertinent economic and financial decisions about this Air Liner? Is it any wonder that the company is so dysfunctional when skill-sets are so grossly ignored?

    There again however, this is the backward Caribbean, where there is an excuse for every professional failure and “colonial birth right”, is the only qualification in government and management!

    Thus we are and thus we shall remain until the 21st Century catches up with us.

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  8. Hashtag Prince says:

    I remember Carib Xpress – Loved that mini-jet, it was fast, and Caribbean Star which was a competitive airline – good service… and Red Jet – The price was affordable. Somehow people spoke and they were miraculously annihilated. Was a threat to the LIATical Empire – LOL!!!

    LIAT just takes and takes from the passengers and still end up with nothing. Time to re-think its existence!

    Bring at least another 3 airlines services into operation to create competitiveness, quality assurance and choice.

    Reply

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