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Investing in LIAT

Brian Francis

Investing  in LIAT

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It is indeed common knowledge that most Caribbean countries are experiencing difficult fiscal conditions, making it more and more challenging to respond to the needs of individuals and businesses.  
What this means, therefore, is that serious thinking has to be put into every financial decision made by our respective governments. One simple approach to coping in the current environment is to compile a list of critical areas for public investment and then allocate resources to those activities in order of priority. Some critics may consider this suggestion an oversimplification of a complex reality but the truth is, it is a commonsense strategy that can work and ought to be given a chance.  Let’s explore this further!
Virtually every country in the Caribbean has shifted away from agriculture and manufacturing as its main area of economic activity to the point where the service industries now dominate.
 While our governments have done an extremely good job by investing in human resource development to facilitate the growth of services, much more needs to be done particularly in relation to travel and tourism.  Specifically, investing in LIAT should now be a top priority for all the governments in the region.
Indeed, over the years our governments have found it necessary to invest in all sorts of activities, including commercial banks, development banks, telecommunications, electricity companies, water authorities, public transportation, and television stations.
These investments have produced mixed outcomes and even in cases where losses continue to accumulate, governments have been hesitant to privatize some of those entities. Why, then, is it so difficult for governments in the region to invest heavily in LIAT?
I firmly believe the time has come for Caribbean governments to treat LIAT as a priority area for investment. If travel and tourism are considered the leading drivers of our economic development, LIAT must continue to be a vibrant airline in the region because it is nearly impossible for some of our tourism industries to survive without the critical service LIAT provides.
Now that the airline has completed its new business plan – an initiative that many have been calling for – it is only reasonable that all and sundry should get aboard and provide the support and resources to allow the airline to grow and become financially viable.
After all, our governments have invested millions of dollars in joint marketing activities with foreign airlines to boost visitor arrivals to our shores.  We have complained profusely about the airline passenger duty imposed by Britain’s government.  
Isn’t it time we begin to look inwards and make the right financial decisions to protect what is essentially ours?
The reality of the travel industry in the region is that it is extremely difficult to make profits on a sustained basis.
That said, the new business plan does project some level of profitability for LIAT in the years ahead and that is rather encouraging. However, our governments ought not to refuse to invest in LIAT even if the airline makes losses because the service it provides is too critical to our growth and development.
Hence, as our governments contemplate their next move, let’s ask ourselves this simple question:  can regional travel and our tourism industries survive without an effervescent LIAT?