EDITORIAL: This strange intervention on LIAT’s funding
THIS SEEMS to be a season for surprising public statements, not only by politicians but also by officials of high profile state corporations and agencies. The latest in this regard came a week ago today from Dr Leroy McClean, chief executive officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
Speaking at the corporation’s Export Readiness Programme graduation event, Dr McClean thought it relevant to volunteer the surprising suggestion that “some of the funds being invested in LIAT should be used instead to improve shipping links between Caribbean islands” (Daily Nation, February19).
The surprise lies in the reality that whatever the merit, or otherwise, in his suggestion for the Barbados Government, for one, to divert funds from the sole intra-regional airline for utilisation instead to improve shipping services among Caribbean islands, Dr McClean has ignored a few quite pertinent factors.
For starters, Barbados – a vital hub for the airline – has remained, under changing administrations in Bridgetown, as the lead player among the pitiful few shareholder governments to help LIAT maintain its unique daily intra-regional services on 21 destinations. This would soon be done with a new modern fleet of ATR aircraft at a cost of US$107 million thanks, largely, to the US$65 million loan provided by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Surely, the BIDC leader must be aware of the recurring failure by CARICOM governments to effectively address the challenges of intra-regional shipping services and what remains the elusive goal of fulfilling even the long promised fast-ferry service between Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean.
In the circumstances, had Dr McClean offered a suggestion for a desirable realistic sharing of the financial burden to help maintain LIAT’s daily intra-regional service – so critical to the region’s tourism industry – it would have made more sense, rather than to publicly call for diversion of funds from the airline to improve shipping services within the region.
A pertinent question is whether he had previously made this proposal – in whatever capacity – to the Barbados Government. There is clearly no comparison between the air transportation needs being met daily by LIAT to that of even an improved intra-regional shipping service. It is also quite relevant to bear in mind that LIAT’s 100 daily passenger flights are also linked with a related and much appreciated cargo service.
Considering his knowledge of and previous active involvement with Barbados’ party politics and the position he currently holds with the BIDC, Dr McClean should perhaps engage in sharing his ideas with the ministry responsible for air and sea transportation as well as the management of LIAT on the way forward for both the regional airline and desirable improvement in CARICOM’s shipping service.