Tuesday 5th February, 2019-Citing the need for restructuring of regional airline LIAT, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced plans to make the airline an essential service.
The International Labour Organization defines essential service as “Services, by whomsoever rendered, and whether rendered to the Government or to any other person, the interruption of which would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population.”
Prime Minister Browne in explaining the proposed move detailed the financial losses incurred by the company during industrial action. He is of the opinion those moves are causing the airline more harm than good, at a time when assistance is being sought to ensure LIAT’s survivability.
Restructuring the Antigua headquartered airline is one of the recommendations contained in a report compiled by the Caribbean Development Bank and after examining the other options that were available, shareholder governments have settled on restructuring.
For years, LIAT has experienced financial challenges, with only four regional governments, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines funding its operation.
In 2018, the four countries finalized a US $7 million loan, intended to offset the revenues lost when some LIAT flights were halted as a result of several hurricanes that passed through the region in 2017. Dominica was exempted from contributing due to Hurricane Maria’s destruction there.
Of the US$7 million loan, SVG is charged with paying 12 per cent or US$840,000. Antigua and Barbuda will pay 35 per cent and Barbados 53 per cent.