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ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 28, CMC – Dominica will attend its first shareholders meeting of the regional airline, LIAT, on Friday after making an initial payment of three million dollars (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) to the cash-strapped Antigua-based airline, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has announced. Skerrit along with financial secretary Rosemund Edwards are attending the shareholders meeting in Barbados. Prior to his departure, Prime Minister Skerrit defended the decision to put funds into the airline, whose other shareholder governments are Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados. “The government of Dominica has made a payment to LIAT in the amount of three million dollars that will go towards our contribution and participation in the redevelopment of LIAT. “As we have maintained we see this as an important venture. We recognise that LIAT itself has certain challenges, but the question is which airline in the world does not and we believe from a government standpoint we are looking at a wider benefit of LIAT to Dominica and the wider Caribbean,” Skeritt said. Prime Minister Skerrit, who has promised to address the nation on the issue, said Dominica regards the investment in LIAT as a means of “safeguarding and protecting the investments the government has made in tourism ....” “So Dominica shall attend the shareholders meeting in Barbados on December 28 and so we will be able to sit on board and assist with the continued presence of LIAT flying into Dominica and the wider region,” he added. Earlier this month, LIAT unveiled a new business plan it said would help reverse an EC$43 million loss last year while projecting a two per cent profit in 2013. Recently appointed chief executive officer Ian Brunton said that the airline is expected to record EC$23 million in losses at the end of this year. “The projections show strong revenues and significant bottom line improvement. LIAT is projected to reverse its current losses and record a profit of EC$7 million in 2013 and by 2017, profits in excess of EC$40 million are projected,” said Brunton, who noted that since 2009, the airline has had to deal with high fuel costs and lower passenger traffic that has seriously affected its finances. In 2010, LIAT recorded losses of EC$20.2 million, which increased to EC$43 million in 2011 “largely driven by higher fuel costs combined with lower passenger volumes”.