Barbados and Antigua to discuss LIAT shares

Barbados will not be negotiating LIAT’s future direction in the public domain, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has reiterated,  in response to reports out of Antigua and Barbuda that her Government has agreed to sell its shares to St John’s.

Speaking on his radio station on Saturday, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Mottley has said yes to selling “a significant portion” of Barbados’ shares in LIAT to his government.

Earlier this month, the Browne administration issued a statement from a Cabinet meeting which said, “Prime Minister Gaston Browne indicated to the Cabinet members that he has written to Prime Minister Mia Mottley on the LIAT restructuring plan.

“An offer was made for Antigua and Barbuda to acquire the LIAT shares owned by Barbados, through a take-over of the liability of Barbados to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB)”.

On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Mottley’s Press Secretary Roy Morris confirmed that Barbados had received the letter but made it clear that Mottley would not be drawn into making public comments on the matter.

“PM Mottley’s position is that Antigua has made an offer to Barbados regarding its shares in LIAT, and Barbados has responded by inviting [Prime Minister Gaston Browne] to send a team to Barbados to talk,” Morris told Barbados TODAY.

“In the meanwhile, Barbados will not prejudice those talks by making any further statement on the matter, ” he added.

According to reports from Antigua and Barbuda’s online news outlet, Browne did not give an exact number of shares Barbados intended to sell, but said Mottley indicated that Bridgetown wanted to retain “at least ten per cent of its shares”.

“The intent is not to exclude any country from participating in LIAT. In fact, as far as practicable we would want to broaden the shareholding in LIAT,” prime minister Browne said.

He added that he was “quite happy that they [Barbados] will maintain a shareholding position”.

Browne further disclosed that a negotiating team has been established, including MPs Lennox Weston and Sir Robin Yearwood as well as a representative from the Ministry of Finance. He said the decision was in the best interest of the Antigua and Barbuda economy.

Last Wednesday, at the annual luncheon of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC), Prime Minister Mottley said she was primarily focused on ensuring reliable and affordable regional transport, as she confirmed receiving Antigua and Barbuda’s expression of interest in purchasing her country’s shares in LIAT.

“Let’s just say we agree on the mission, and the mission is that there must always be reliable affordable access for travel in the region as there must be nationally. And I can assure you and the country that we are working on this every day.

“But you also have to take the reality of an existence as you find it and then determine whether the modality that you have is the best mechanism by which to deliver on that objective,” she said.