Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Loans signed to assist LIAT


Tripartite loan agreements have been signed between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the stakeholder governments of regional airline LIAT and the management of LIAT, to finance the modernisation of the airline’s ageing fleet.

According to President of the CDB, Dr. Warren Smith, loans for each of the four shareholder governments – Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica – were approved last month for on-lending to LIAT. He said that each shareholder government will on-lend the funds to LIAT on the same terms as received from the CDB and LIAT will be responsible for the repayment to the Bank.

Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart (third from left)
and Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (far right), shake hands at last Friday’s
signing as (from left) Chief Executive Officer, LIAT, Ian Brunton;
LIAT Chairman, Dr. Jean Holder; and Antigua and Barbuda’s
Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer, look on.
Smith further explained that the loans, which total US$65 million, represent 61 per cent of the cost for the Fleet Modernisation Project. The agreements give LIAT a 13-year period to repay the loans, following a grace period of two years.

He made the disclosure while delivering welcome remarks at the ceremony for the signing of the agreements at the CDB last Friday morning, adding that it is anticipated that the modernisation of the aircraft, along with ongoing institutional and operational restructuring of the airline, will lead to an overall improvement in the financial performance and the operational efficiency of the regional airline.

“We at the CDB regard this as an extremely important undertaking, as LIAT’s aged fleet poses a significant risk to its commercial viability, as well as the socio-economic benefits accruing to regional economies from the operation of this important airline,” he said.

The president’s comments came he noted that the Bank has had a long association with LIAT dating back to 1975, which has seen the CDB providing financing to the tune of US$153 million over the years to improve and safeguard the financial viability of the airline.

“I believe, ladies and gentlemen, this signals our strong commitment to LIAT and to the development of intra-regional air transportation in the Caribbean. Second, this ceremony is a reminder that reliable and efficient air transportation is an indispensable underpinning of Caribbean development,” he said.

Smith said that as the regional carrier with the widest network, LIAT has been responsible for the intra-regional air links necessary for the movement of both people and goods, and as such, he maintained that LIAT’s services are vital for the continued viability and sustainability of the region’s critical industries, including tourism and agriculture. The CDB head made the point as he revealed that last year, LIAT’s “direct and catalytic impact” on the economies that it serves has been estimated to have exceeded US$320 million. Moreover, he said that the airline contributed 39 per cent of the average long stay visitor spend, which was approximately US$63 million.

“Even in the midst of large fiscal and debt challenges, the shareholder governments have made a commitment to provide additional funding to support LIAT’s operations. The presence of representatives from all of these shareholders is perhaps the strongest statement of their recognition of LIAT’s importance to this region and the high priority each has accorded to making LIAT a true success story,” he said. (JRT)

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