St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said yesterday the removal of the Caribbean Airlines fuel subsidy was a welcome move since it levelled the playing field for competing airlines in the region.
Gonsalves spoke at the 27th meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) at Noor Hassanali Conference Centre, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.
He also said the injection of the $400 million in equity to capitalise the airline—announced last week by Finance Minister Larry Howai in the 2013-2014 budget—will not be a prohibitive subsidy under the Multi-Lateral Air Service Agreement or under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“I have been lobbying for it for quite a while. I am very pleased the Government has removed the fuel subsidy. There will always be a temptation if you have an airline. You own it and if it runs into difficulty (the challenge) is to provide it with prohibitive subsidies. And if that happens, you can rest assured that competitor airline (LIAT) would look at it and make our voices heard.”
During the budget presentation, Minister Howai said the sum ($400 million) was intended to facilitate the airline’s restructuring process and promote financial viability.
Coming out of yesterday’s talks, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said two new interventions would be set up, namely Transport and Economic Commissions.
On the Economic Commission, Gonsalves said there would be two people from each country and they can look broadly at growth dimensions, employment, fiscal situations and mobilsation of resources in the region and outside to facilitate economic development.
On the Transport Commission, there will be representatives from the shareholders of Caribbean Airlines, LIAT, Bahamas Air and Suriname Airways.
On the issue of reparations from countries involved in the slave trade, Gonsalves said: “The Caribbean must be a united front.”
—See Page 36