Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Not a black hole! – LIAT shareholders deny wasting taxpayers’ money

The four shareholder governments of LIAT airlines have denied allegations by some that they have been wasting taxpayers’ money by putting funds into a loss-making operation.

Chairman of shareholder governments, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, called on reporters to play a role in clearing up the misinformation that was being spewed in public foras, particularly across the Internet, by persons who believed they knew best  how to run a regional airline efficaciously.

He said that contrary to the views held by some, the input of funds by governments was not an ongoing exercise, but done on occasions to assist in the restructuring of LIAT.

“I hear people saying that every year, the shareholders [are] pouring money down a dark hole in LIAT to run [it]. The shareholders have not put in money for the recurrent operations of LIAT. [We] have put money into it in 2007-2008 for [its] restructuring... and more recently we have guaranteed a loan at the CDB and have put in equity ourselves. But no money on an ongoing basis has been given to subsidise the day-to-day operations of LIAT,” the Prime Minister categorically stated.

Challenge to private sector

The Prime Minister challenged the private sector, which he says has continuously been at the forefront of critiquing agendas, to put their money where their mouth is. It is a challenge he is extending to those governments who insist on remaining on the sidelines until LIAT supposedly gets its act together, whilst still reaping the benefits of being serviced by the carrier.

He argued: “Everybody wants to talk about LIAT, but nobody wants to have an authoritative position to speak about it... Some people with all sorts of different agendas who would be critiquing what LIAT is doing or not doing with a number of facile answers which really don’t pass either the smell test or the test of reasonableness in relation to what would be an efficacious airline, and I would tell [them] … if you think you can make money in LIAT become an equity partner!...”

The Shareholders Chairman warned, however, that “buccaneer investors” should stay clear of him as he would not be entertaining anything but serious, well thought-out proposals.

“We get a lot of letters from these types and when they can’t succeed, they take to the Internet and say that we are stupid [and] we don’t want to have any investors come in... you have a lot of private sector buccaneers, not of any reputable standing, holding out that they have $200 to $300 million from some entity from somewhere... No buccaneers write me... [only] serious people with serious proposals,” he said. (RS)

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