CMC – The Antigua and Barbuda government says it is prepared to purchase the shares owned by the Barbados government in the cash-strapped regional airline LIAT, if Bridgetown indicates it is willing to sell them.
“My understanding is that the Barbados government may be thinking of ridding themselves of the shares of LIAT. If that is in fact so then we will take them up, I am sure of that,” Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin told reporters here.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who was here attending the special Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit on security did not officially commented on the statement by Benjamin, who did not confirm or deny media reports in his country that the offer to purchase the shares are contained in a proposal that St. John’s had submitted to shareholder governments during a meeting earlier this week on the financial and other problems facing the regional carrier.
“…but I dare say we are determined nonetheless that we have seen a change in the attitude of our partners in the region. They understand the situation that LIAT must remain flying.
“Indeed I believe another country has come on board and has made a donation as well and I am satisfied to the extent that I feel sure that they will all come on board at the material point in time,” he added.
Earlier this week, the shareholder governments – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines – agreed to give further consideration to a proposal by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne regarding the future direction of the airline.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Antigua and Barbuda had made an oral presentation to the meeting and would present a written document over the next few days.
“The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda presented orally a proposal and the proposal would be put into writing within a week and this proposal involves among other things a particular way to finance the keeping of the three planes owned by the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) “
Gonsalves said that there had been a suggestion that the planes be sold as part of a “”slim down of LIAT” and there’s a general agreement amongst some shareholders that this is a matter which merits very serious consideration.
He said he hopes that the proposal from Antigua and Barbuda would be discussed by the shareholders “before the end of May is out.
“They have put it on the table orally, but they will submit in writing for further study…and that proposal is gathering support from most shareholders,” he said, adding “what it means in effect that these planes will not be sold.
“There will be additional resources put in without selling these planes,” he added.
The shareholder governments have been asking other Caribbean governments to provide financial assistance to the Antigua-based airline that services 15 Caribbean countries.
Gonsalves confirmed that St. Kitts-Nevis had joined Grenada in responding positively to the call for raising US$5.4 million to help the airline deal with its current financial problems.
St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said last week that Castries would not contribute any funds unless there’s a significant change to the airline’s structure.