Opposition parliamentarian Ronald Toppin today accused the Freundel Stuart administration of lacking the political will to have the country upgraded to Category 1 status.
A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance. Countries that do not meet these standards are assigned Category 2.
With Category 1 rating, a country’s air carriers can establish service to the United States and carry the code of US carriers.
In his contribution to the debate on the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Toppin said prior to 2008 – the year the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) lost power to the Democratic Labour Party – a lot of work had been done towards upgrading the country.
He added that an audit carried out two years later by the US Federal Aviation Administration found Barbados to be compliant with ICAO oversight standards in only one of eight categories.
“As I speak to you now in 2016, six years after that FAA audit of 2010 and eight years after the change of Government in 2008, Barbados is no better off today than it was eight years ago in terms of compliance with safety oversight standards as prescribed by the world International Civil Aviation Organization,” Toppin complained, while comparing Barbados to Jamaica, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, all of which have attained Category I status.
“There has never been the political will. It is something that has to be prioritized,” he said.
Toppin also lashed out at Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy who said if he had a choice he would much rather have a civil aviation industry than Category 1 status.
“To think that you would have a prosperous civil aviation industry that is separate and apart from a categorization that you have in terms of your compliance with safety oversight standards as prescribed by the world body is to fundamentally misunderstand what the civil aviation industry is all about. The notion of having Category 2 status, which is the lowest possible categorization that you can have and that Barbados has, conjures up all sorts of impressions and perceptions in the minds of travellers and commuters,” Toppin said.
Sealy had earlier announced plans to establish a body to develop a thriving civil aviation industry.