BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Mar 12, CMC – The St. Kitts-Nevis government says it has appointed a high-level advisory committee to thoroughly consider a number of proposals put forward by the cash-strapped regional airline, LIAT.
A government statement said that the committee headed by Financial Secretary, Mrs. Hilary Hazel, was established after a three-member LIAT delegation made a presentation to Cabinet on Monday.
The statement gave no indication as to how soon the committee will report to the Cabinet, but said “that committee will be charged with considering all matters relating to LIAT and the proposals made during Monday’s meeting”.
On Monday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves reiterated the need for Caribbean countries to provide financial assistance to the Antigua-based airline that operates 491 flights weekly across its network of 15 destinations.
He told the Parliament in his country that 11 destinations have been given until Friday, March 15 to respond to the airline’s minimal revenue guarantee (MRG) proposals.
Under and MRG model, it is likely that a few flights may be cut if the government is not prepared to fund them with a guarantee, Gonsalves told lawmakers, adding that theoretically, several countries have no quarrel with the MRG.
“If a country wants a particular flight and it is not viable financially for LIAT, that country pays a guarantee for its operation, just like they do for the international carriers.”
He said that in the “evolving saga”, among the things that the management of LIAT has done is to send MRG letters to 11 destinations, namely: Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Vincent, Tortola and Trinidad.
Gonsalves said that the MRG would yield an estimated US$16 million annually but will not address LIAT’s existing debt to the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank.
The airline has been unable to service that debt and the shareholder governments have had to repay.