Development Banker Calls on region to tackle air travel as one

As shareholder governments struggle to come up with a new funding model to keep cash-strapped airline LIAT in the skies, a  development banker is calling for a united regional front on tackling aviation challenges – including a single common airspace.

Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Justin Ram said that intra-regional air travel was still too difficult and suggested that it was unnecessarily expensive.

“Why are we trying to do so many things on a country by country basis when some of these things could be better implemented if we were to do them on a regional level. One I think definitely is aviation.

“I think we need to put our heads together and say ‘look, something needs to be done about this’. I am sure many of you travel around the region and you know how difficult that is.

“First of all, our governments slap a lot of taxes and charges on it, so for example, if you want to fly from Barbados to St Lucia, which is just about a half an hour away, 60 per cent of your fare is related to taxes and charges.”

Ram was addressing the opening of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) 20th annual conference at the Hilton Resort on Wednesday, under the topic, Obtaining Economic Security for the Region: The Transformation Agenda.

He also pointed to inefficiencies and the burden associated with regional travel, insisting that a regional approach to travel within the Caribbean would result in more business.

The CDB senior economist queried: “Why is it when I am going from Barbados to St Kitts I have to stop in Antigua, why do I have to get off the plane and go through security again?

“Why not come together and just think of the Caribbean as a single economic space and so it makes moving around lot easier.

“It means it would be a lot more attractive for Caribbean people to visit one another rather than it being more cost effective to go to Miami, for example. So this regional approach is really important for us”.