Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended their 44th regular summit in The Bahamas on Friday, nowhere closer to solving the woes being experienced by regional travelers following the collapse of the intra-regional airline, LIAT, in 2020.
“It is an ongoing discussion we have mandated the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to explore and to examine the current challenge that we have and to come up with some recommendations on how we can overcome the travel issue of intra-regional travel,” Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit told reporters at the end of summit news conference.
The Antigua-based LIAT (1974) Limited began shutting down in July 2020 following increased debt and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The airline is owned by the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A downsized version of the carrier has been operating a reduced schedule with a limited workforce since November 2020.
The airline has scaled down its operations and is now servicing Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, San Juan Puerto Rico, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.
Skerrit told reporters the matter had been discussed during the summit and the leaders had received an updated report from the CDB.
“Amongst ourselves we have also discussed a number of actions we believe we can take in the immediate to help resolve the current challenge we have.
“The reality is we all miss LIAT in the Caribbean, an airline that was chastised by so many of us, but now we understand and appreciate the important public good LIAT espoused for so many decades and so we are looking at what kind of construct we can bring to play recognizing that there are existing companies that are servicing our islands,” he added.
Skerrit said the Caribbean countries are looking “at how we can work with those existing entities to seek to alleviate the current challenges”.
In his address to the opening ceremony of the summit on Wednesday, newly elected St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew said CARICOM “stands at a cross roads” with myriad challenges including inadequate transportation within the region.
Drew said it is difficult for the Caribbean countries to extoll the virtues of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that facilities the free movement of goods, services, persons, capital and technology “without addressing the proverbial “elephant in the room” – intra regional transport.