There appears to be “some convergence” between Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados regarding issues surrounding Bridgetown’s sale of its shares in regional airline LIAT, according to the Antiguan leader, Gaston Browne.
Browne added that the “consensus will result in the recapitalisation of LIAT as well as the restructuring of LIAT to place it on a path of sustainability”.
He added: “I am not in a position to give the details at this point but to say that the issues that we have had, there has been some convergence and there is now a consensus on the way forward.”
The government in St John’s currently holds 34 per cent of the shares in the airline and had discontinued its interest in buying some of the shares owned by the Barbados Government.
Bridgetown had initially indicated it wanted $88 million (US$44 million) for its LIAT shares but Prime Minister Browne had said the price was too steep. He declared that while his government wanted a bigger stake in the regional airline, it had no intention of “giving away money”.
St John’s had sought to acquire the LIAT shares owned by Bridgetown, through a take-over of Barbados’ liability to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and would have given it 81 per cent of the airline.
LIAT employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations. The other shareholder governments are Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.
Earlier this year, the Antiguan parliament gave the Browne administration the green light to secure a $31 million (US$15.8 million) loan from Banco del ALBA to buy additional shares in LIAT.
Prime Minister Browne told legislators then that his administration anticipates that the recapitalisation of the airline would make LIAT more efficient and profitable as he warned of salary and wages reductions.
“A condition of this new capital would be that there has to be cuts including a reduction in salary and wages,” he told Parliament. “I’m pretty sure that there’ll be some changes even with the directorship of LIAT.
Browne said he was hopeful that the other shareholder governments will bring the total anticipated contributions to the airline, to an estimated $70 million (US$35 million).