Friday 14 August, 2020

SLP urges Caribbean to once and for all address regional air transport

The announcement of the pending liquidation of the regional airline LIAT (1974) Ltd has been received with deep concern by the Saint Lucia Labour Party.

The demise of an institution that has steadfastly served the region and the regional integration process for approximately sixty years is to be regretted. Of even greater concern is the fact that this will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of persons in the Caribbean, including Saint Lucia, adding yet another unfortunate episode to the ravages wreaked upon our economies by the COVID 19 pandemic.

Despite all the financial difficulties and travails that have battered LIAT over the years, the airline has, without doubt, proven to be of immensely significant importance to the region.

This is underscored by the current situation, in which, without LIAT, the people of the region are facing the alarming prospect of the impossibility of intra-regional travel, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean, in the months ahead, even as their Governments are opening their borders after months of lockdown as result of COVID-19. The value of LIAT cannot be seen in purely profit and loss terms.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party is, therefore, calling upon all the governments of the Caribbean Community to make a concerted and determined effort to finally put in place a workable structure for regional air transportation, whether or not this involves a remodelled LIAT, but that takes into account the objective realities of operating air services in a region of very small islands with their concomitant small populations.

In that regard, the Party notes the statement by the outgoing Chair of CARICOM that Governments will be reviewing taxes on regional air travel as well as licensing of airlines. Regional air transportation has to be regarded as a public good and it is therefore incumbent upon all regional governments to accord it the attention that this implies.

Further, the single market which CARICOM and the OECS have been building over the last decade should be accompanied by a single air space in order to give true meaning and success to the goal of the free movement of people, goods and services.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party looks forward to an urgent resolution of this LIAT crisis, particularly the airline’s financial obligations to its employees, and to decisions that will redound to the long term benefit of regional aviation and the regional integration movement in the Caribbean.

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