Sunday 29 November, 2020

PM: St Lucia open to considering investment in new regional airline

Prime Minister Hon Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Hon Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says investing in the new entity which would replace LIAT can be considered.

Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne announced that the regional airline was to be liquidated following years of financial woes, adding that a new airline would need to take its place to maintain connectivity within the Caribbean.

"I don't know what the new entity is," Prime Minister Chastanet said Monday.

"We've only gotten news that LIAT itself is going into liquidation and I know the prime minister of Antigua has indicated that he would like to put an airline together, so when we understand what the entity is and how it is going to operate, that is something we could give consideration to," Chastanet said.

According to the Saint Lucian prime minister, there already have been several other airlines who have made applications to replace LIAT, which has been servicing the region for over four decades.

"Now that the oak tree is gone, the grass will grow," Chastanet declared.

In December 2019, eight directors were selected to join the new LIAT Chairman, former prime minister of Barbados Owen Arthur, to help restructure the entity.

"A lot of people were skeptical that if LIAT went under there would be no replacement to it, we are seeing six airlines step up to the plate," Chastanet observed.

This is a sector he believes should have as minimal government investment as possible with proper policies in place to encourage the growth of the industry.

In January 2020, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet maintained his position in not supporting the cash strapped regional carrier despite the instalment of a new Board of Directors and chairman.

When asked if he felt vindicated in his decision, he said: "We are talking about people's lives. We talking about over eight hundred people who have dedicated their lives to LIAT and lost their jobs. For me, I am not going to sit here and be vindicated. It is just sad the level of evidence we had for the period we had that governments would not have recognised that should have been done much earlier."

The airline, he recalled, was recapitalized about ten years ago and was still headed in the wrong direction.

"I just really wish that governments would allow the private sector to take over that sector. Once the government's get involved and airlines start becoming partial in the decisions they are making, then it becomes a problem," Chastanet said.

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