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Bird backs LIAT

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

Bird backs LIAT

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Opposition Leader Lester Bird has welcomed reports that St. Lucia and Dominica may become shareholders of the financially strapped regional airline, LIAT, saying it was important for other Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to do so.
“As somebody who was directly involved in making sure that LIAT did not go under when the government of Antigua put up ten million dollars (US$3.7 million), we also put up a lot of money to help to meet the commitments of LIAT,” said Bird, a former prime minister here.
He said whatever it takes, “the islands must get together and realise that this is quintessential for the development of these islands,” he said on local radio.
The Antigua-based airline is owned by the governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda and last week, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he was confident that Castries and Roseau would soon become share holders of the airline, which operates 110 flights across the region daily.
Gonsalves said his government remains committed to LIAT, its reform, fleet renewal and expansion, to meet the intra-regional air transport demands for Caribbean and international travellers.
“One thing is sure, unless a further fundamental restructuring of LIAT ensues, the potential of this vital airline service would not be fully realised. That is a major challenge in 2012 for the three shareholder governments …” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Air Transport, here.
Bird said it was important for the airline to upgrade its aging fleet, adding “I think it is very important if we are going to deal with integration in any real meaningful  manner that we have an airline that can survive and operate between these islands.
“What we need to do of course is to get new airplanes and that would require us to go to the Europeans and the European zone and in fact as them to help us because it is a regional project and there is a situation where there is funding for regional projects,” he added.
Bird told listeners that it is very important that LIAT survives, especially from an OECS position.
The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. (CMC)