The way has been cleared for Antigua and Barbuda to on-lend US$21.9 million from the Caribbean Development Bank for LIAT to upgrade its aging fleet.
The House of Representatives, last Friday, approved a resolution authorising the amount.
The funds will go towards acquiring France-made ATR-600s that will replace Dash 8s.
Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell said, “LIAT has to make the monthly payments so it is not for our account but they (CDB) lend us and LIAT pays to them.”
St Philip North MP Robin Yearwood warned that Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadians and most recently Dominica – the major shareholder governments – will be forced to continue borrowing if other states continue to refuse to give LIAT financial aid.
“The time has come for all those Caribbean governments on the outside looking in and benefitting – from Trinidad right down to the BVI – to chip in. It can’t just be left to Barbados, St Vincent, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda,” he argued.
“All of us should have a budget item marked subsidy to LIAT. They may not give as much as us but it will reduce the cost of the tickets etc and we will have a very dynamic airline in years to come. The four governments can’t carry it because we’re going to borrow, borrow, borrow.”
The opposition member went on to call for a team of experts to be installed to begin advising the airline.
“We have to get that bridge with experts like accountants, economists, aviation experts etc to advise both LIAT and the prime ministers. We have to change the way we do business. Let some of the pilots also go on that board,” Yearwood said.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer agreed that more governments need to support the Antigua-based regional carrier.
He also urged nationals not to lose faith in the airline that has been besieged with scheduling and aircraft challenges.
“Right now it is going through a difficult period but now is not the time for us to want to say abandon LIAT, now is the time for us to hold the line and make sure we get it through its difficulties and set it on a good path,” Spencer said.