The air transportation woes affecting the Eastern Caribbean since the collapse of LIAT will be getting closer attention from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as the Board of Directors has approved a technical assistance grant to go towards developing interim arrangements to address the crisis.
The CDB will finance consultancy services which will devise urgent provisional measures to re-establish regular air transport services within the sub-region, a release from the Bank states.
Options for a permanent solution will be considered in a subsequent intervention.
The support has come in response to a request from the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for assistance to examine and address airlift capacity challenges.
The consultancy will develop interim solutions to alleviate the current capacity deficit, and define immediate actions required of participating Governments to ensure that regular inter-island air service can be restored with dispatch.
The consultant will also be required to provide project management services to support the implementation of the agreed solutions.
The void in regional air connectivity has emerged because of the collapse of LIAT, the main intra-island air carrier in the Eastern Caribbean, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent severe curtailment of services.
Currently, LIAT operates 50 flights a week, 90% down from almost 500 flights weekly prior to its demise.
The significantly reduced airlift capacity has stymied the movement of goods, services and people to the detriment of tourism, trade, employment, business activity and social relations.
“The intra-regional movement of people and goods is integral to regional cooperation and integration and CDB has therefore placed high priority on supporting the provision of dependable and cost-effective air transportation within the Region,” the Bank’s Vice President, Operations, Isaac Solomon explained.
“The proposed technical assistance will provide member governments with feasible options for urgent improvement in airlift capacity and make gender responsive and socially inclusive recommendations on the nature and proposed structure of an aviation solution going forward, a costed and fully funded business plan, as well, as staffing considerations for implementation,” he added.
The technical assistance grant was approved by the CDB Board at a meeting which was held on December 9, 2022.