January 14, 2005

More money for LIAT

Cash strapped LIAT, still plagued by financial woes this week received some good news.

This after the Prime Ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda agreed to the injection of EC$44 million to assist the struggling airline.{{more}}

The decision was made at a meeting last Saturday, January 8, attended by Prime Ministers Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, Owen Arthur of Barbados and Baldwin Spender of Antigua and Barbuda, a representative from St. Lucia, representatives of the Central Development Bank, CARICOM, and LIAT. The meeting was held at the Amaryllis Hotel in Barbados.

The meeting agreed that LIAT would receive EC$44 million from the CARICOM Oil Facility Fund and an additional EC$5.7 million from Antigua and Barbuda.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves told local media this week that the CARICOM Oil Facility Fund was set up by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago with an annual contribution of EC$150 million. The purpose is to assist the CARICOM countries with monies for poverty alleviation, income support and infrastructural development.

Dr. Gonsalves said that Prime Minister Manning was expected to bring the matter before his Cabinet for approval. The matter also has to be sanctioned by all CARICOM heads of Government but Dr. Gonsalves said he didn’t see a problem here.

The Prime Minister said he summoned the meeting because LIAT is facing some very severe problems. He said this is so simply because the decisions of July 2004 were not fully implemented.

Last July the four Prime Ministers mentioned previously had taken the decision with the LIAT management and board to immediately provide the sum of $22.7 million as a part of a sum for restructuring plan amounting to $45 million. St. Vincent and the Grenadines contributed $5.7 million which was borrowed from Trinidad and Tobago at zero percent interest with a moratorium on the repayment of five years. Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves said the additional $22.3 million was set to be delivered in six months.

Antigua was supposed to provide $5.7 million plus an additional $5.7 million that they had outstanding from an earlier period. However they failed to meet their obligations and the first phase of the restructuring plan couldn’t go through in a consistent way.

Dr. Gonsalves said he was not being critical of the new government of Antigua and Barbuda, but that very often there is not a follow through on the commitments made. While this happened the Prime Minister said, debts accumulated.

“This is not a critique of the new government of Antigua and Barbuda because they have been trying their best and they had to try to look for that extra $5.7 million,” said Dr. Gonsalves. He said Antigua agreed their monies would have been ready by Monday.