Barbados TODAY – A local banker who was instrumental in raising nearly BDS$50 million through a regional bond issue to ensure LIAT’s survival over a decade ago is advising shareholder governments to withdraw service from Caribbean countries that refuse to pump cash into the struggling airline.
“The easiest thing for LIAT or any airline company to do is to say, ‘I am cutting that route’. If you cut the route to Dominica, for example, what will happen?” former president of the Barbados Bankers Association Horace Cobham said.
At present, only Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines contribute financially to the cash-strapped carrier.
Some Caribbean leaders, including Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada and Dr Timothy Harris of St Kitts and Nevis have made it clear they would not invest in LIAT.
The St Lucian prime minister Allen Chastanet recently joined that list, making it clear his country would not put a dollar into the regional airline.
Without making reference to any of these countries, Cobham told Barbados TODAY some tough decisions would have to be taken if LIAT were to be made into a viable entity.
Among those decisions, he said, was to stop serving the countries that did not contribute financially.
“Some routes aren’t commercially viable. So if you are saying at the political level we need LIAT to fly there, then you will have to pay for it and that is where the problem exists in LIAT. Because it is called a Caribbean airline, they feel that it has to fly there even if it has just ten people, and if you don’t fly there, the politicians will get up in arms,” he said.
Cobham made it clear LIAT was playing an important role in Caribbean aviation and was “not something you can get rid of”.
However, the former CIBC and Royal Bank executive told Barbados TODAY the airline needed to improve its internal operational structures and hold management accountable.