The head of LIAT says the regional carrier should be regarded as an essential service whose disruption could endanger life, personal safety, health of the population and jeopardise the economies of the region.
Speaking to private sector stakeholders in Dominica this week, Julie Reifer-Jones said given the importance of LIAT to the economies of the region, this service should be listed as essential.
Referring to a statement by LIAT Chairman Dr. Jean Holder who contended that if the airline closed down across the region for one day the region would be paralysed, she added, “Our experience this year has borne out the accuracy of this statement when during the summer the company experienced major challenges in the network. There was much discussion about damage to the region and fragile economies like Dominica. Again in early November, the LIAT network was literally shut down as a result of a withdrawal of service by the pilots.”
Describing LIAT as an “air bridge between all the countries” of the Caribbean, Reifer-Jones argued the airline was, “as essential to the region as ground transportation is to the local population in each territory”.
A recent study by the Caribbean Development Bank estimated that LIAT’s economic contribution directly and indirectly to the economies of the region is in excess of US$300 million annually.
“Yet, unfortunately, while recognising the importance of LIAT to the region, too few territories are willing to come to the table and assist in funding this essential service,” she added.
Appealing to governments to be “part of the solution,” Reifer-Jones declared it was, “time for every government in the region to inject equity into what is truly the Caribbean airline.
“There is no point in staying on the outside and saying you will get involved when LIAT gets its act together,” she said.