DETRACTORS hell bent on creating mischief, find nothing better to do, but express mistruths and cast aspersions to simply make themselves relevant. This administration has addressed the symptoms of Covid-19 both socially and economically under stringent financial circumstances, but most importantly during an overwhelming government revenue shortfall of approximately 40 percent monthly. Additionally, the extraordinary cost associated with quarantining is in the millions of dollars plus the cost of medical precaution for the retention of over 100 Cuban doctors and nurses. Enabling Fair Helen to remain afloat under those conditions is nothing short of good governance. It is therefore hurtful when qualified persons within our society openly question the security in place to avoid quarantined individuals from escaping custody knowing full well the downside of spreading the coronavirus. Our former Prime Minister clearly voiced his observation in the last sitting of parliament comparing the vision of Antigua verses St Lucia re: opening of their border. Today, Antigua is experiencing great difficulties regarding their hasty opening resulting in an undisclosed number of hotel staff now testing positive for the Coronavirus; secondly, the US visitors (39 of whom tested positive) defied the Antiguan authorities following normal procedure protocol to the extent that those visitors actually threatened the said authorities with legal action at the airport if they were not permitted to board the aircraft with or without permission.
The Liat Debacle
For years the current Prime Minister forewarned the Liat shareholders that the organization had to be restructured for the same reason which has brought Liat to its knees, instead the PM’s critics accused him of disliking the airline which was totally incorrect. Today, Covid has brought reality to the forefront clearly showing the directors that the ATR fleet was too expensive, too sophisticated and too big for the short hauls. Today, several workers will be unable to receive their rightful severance pay as the company’s debt surpasses its assets. It should be recalled that in 2000, EC Express Airline was created with three dash 8 aircrafts to address the needs of frequent services to Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent which worked like a charm, based on the boarding access. What transpired then was Liat flexing its muscles at the expense of taxpayers’ funds, squeezing out the competition and flying side by side and reducing the airfare only to increase the fares once the competition was gone. Then came Caribbean Star with deeper pockets than EC Express who applied tremendous pressure on Liat which caused the company to create major losses as Stanford was prepared to fight Liat to the very end supported by the Antigua Government who also housed the Liat organization. This battle lasted for quite some time, until Allen Stanford ran into his personal difficulties not only with Liat, but the economy of Antigua based on his major investments and infrastructural activities not excluding his major investment in 20/20 Cricket. This scenario with or without Covid could have been avoidable if there were businesspersons on the board of directors capable of assessing what should have been addressed years ago. One of the advisable ways forward at this time is the formation of an entirely new organization called Liat 2020 Company where some seven 30-seater aircrafts are currently available through a current Caribbean Company. The OECS needs to provide the new company with a moratorium on the landing fees for a period of six to twelve months and further take a haircut on the exorbitant taxes with the understanding that the new operators will reduce airfares by a minimum of 40 percent.
Governments in the region must understand, that organizations under their control must function efficiently and not view privatization as evil. Any government entity operating at a loss has to be supported by our tax dollars and these tax dollars are better suited to improve the nation’s asset base. Any St Lucian who can provide the expertise to operate a business successfully, must be admired and supported not criticized. Government was recently forced to address the substantial losses of Radio St Lucia and the Fish Marketing Board, saving the state millions of dollars in losses over the last twenty years. LAGENT GOUVEDMAN PAS KA FINI.
— Ulric W Price