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'Trinidad politics won't affect Air Jamaica deal'

Published:Saturday | April 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Finance minister downplays the effect of impending snap election on Caribbean Airlines issue

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU: Jamaica's minister of Finance Audley Shaw says he has no reason to believe that the dissolution of the Trinidadian government will affect the Air Jamaica-Caribbean Airlines deal.

Trinidad's Prime Minister Patrick Manning on Thursday asked President George Maxwell Richards to dissolve the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, paving the way for elections two and a half years ahead of schedule, said a report from CMC.

Already, the news has caused jitters in the industry, with aviation experts questioning the implications that an election or change of government in Trinidad could have on a deal that has reportedly been sealed.

But Shaw said, "Based on the deal, decisions have already been made and we are well on track."

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The finance minister said he had done his own consultation with the Air Jamaica Transition Committee and was satisfied. "I have been assured by Dennis Lalor, chairman of the committee, that the latest developments will not have any effect on the arrangements made between the two carriers."

On Thursday, this newspaper reported that the planned transition of Air Jamaica to Caribbean Airlines had been set back 18 days, leaving the carrier in even more trouble. The airline was also struggling with advanced bookings down to a trickle as travellers adopted a wait-and-see posture, facing the possibility of serious cash-low problems because of its failure to meet the April 12 deadline as scheduled.

In the meantime, no election date has been announced by the Trindadians, however, the CMC report said the move came a day ahead of a scheduled vote of no confidence tabled by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

As early as last December, Trinidadian opposition Member of Parliament, Vasant Bharat, warned that his country could not afford to take over Jamaica's cash-strapped carrier. He called the deal "backroom negotiations" during an interview with the Trinidad Express.

He also criticised Prime Minister Manning for portraying himself as godfather of the Caribbean, "But we simply can't afford it," he said.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com