Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says he will hold talks on Monday with his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Gaston Browne regarding the re-organisation of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.
Browne is spearheading efforts to reorganise the Antigua-based airline, after two of its major shareholders – Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines- said they favoured liquidating the company that owes in excess of EC$100 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) to its creditors.
Skerrit said his meeting with Browne would be to further discuss the reorganisation of the airline after Browne had earlier presented the shareholders that includes Dominica with a plan for recapitalising LIAT (LIAT) 1874 Limited.
Last month, Browne told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Barbados and Vincent and the Grenadines government have agreed to sell their shares in LIAT to accommodate a new reorganizational plan outlined by ST. John’s.
In late July, a High Court granted a petition allowing for the reorganisation of the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT, the appointment of an administrator as well as staying all proceedings relating to the liquidation of the company.
According to the new reorganizational plan, a copy of which has been obtained by the CMC, Antigua and Barbuda is proposing re-investment of EC$108 million with St. John’s indicating that under the new plan it is prepared to underwrite up to 50 per cent of the required capitalization.
“The new capital invested during reorganization will be protected, in that it will rank in priority above all other creditors in the unlikely event of liquidation,” it said, noting that the remaining EC$54 million to be shared by other private and public sector entities, including existing shareholder governments.
Skerrit said that Dominica is committed to keeping LIAT flying, adding “it is very important for us to support LIAT re-organisation.
“We need to ensure that there is a connection between Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda. That’s a major connection for us with so many of iur citizens resident in Antigua and Barbuda and Antigua and Barbuda is a major market for our fresh produce and our hucksters have to fly in there to ply their trade.
“And so for a number of reasons we have to ensure that we support this initiative. As I said we support all the initiatives because our primary interest is to ensure that there are flights into Dominica and so I look forward to having further discussions with the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda on this,” Skerrit added.
He said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines-based One Caribbean airline could soon get a licence to operate services into Dominica.
“One Caribbean could have come in as a charter. We did offer them that privilege of coming as a charter. They had made an application for a license but they license that they had with the authorities in Barbados would have ended on July 31.”
He said the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) had indicated to Dominica that One Caribbean “needed to renew their license in Barbados before we in Dominica should be given them a license to operate out and into Dominica.
“They did get that extension and they wrote to us…I have given the Minister for International Transport and Tourism the authority to go ahead and issue the license to One Caribbean and I am hoping that they would do so by Tuesday for the latest…so that the issue of licenses a matter of concern for One Caribbean,” Skerrit added.
Meanwhile, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has confirmed that the Turks and Caicos Islands-based Inter Caribbean airline would begin operations out of Barbados on Tuesday.
“As I indicated in a previous statement, the government of Barbados has met with a number of airlines who have expressed interest in operating in the eastern and southern Caribbean<” she said, making reference to the collapse of LIAT.
“Barbados is fortunate that Inter Caribbean has been chosen as its southern hub with a view to expansion and the establishment of headquarters in the future. Inter Caribbean has been operating in the northern Caribbean for almost 30 years but under different brands. Their flights will start from Tuesday, August 4, 2020, from Barbados.”
Mottley said “we have already seen some of the potential coming from this decision of Inter Caribbean with them looking for the rental of some homes and cars and office space,” adding “I am told that some of the interviews for local staff have also started”.
She is promising that her administration would “work cooperatively to review our tax regime to stimulate regional travel.
“In this, I know our late Prime Minister Mr. Owen Arthur will be smiling from wherever he is, for he strenuously supported the need to review fees and taxes as an impetus for renewed regional movement of our citizens and residents.
“It is my fervent wish that the final agreement for a regional bubble for air travel will be completed and started within the next two weeks so that we can leverage the minimal risk posed by moving within those countries of ours whose incidence is extremely low,” Mottley added.