Sat | Jan 28, 2023

CDB to study regional airlift issue

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2023 | 1:11 AM

The Caribbean Development Bank, CDB, will be backing a study on regional airlift amid early moves to find a solution to the long-standing dearth of transportation that has been hobbled by limitations on free movement within Caricom and exacerbated by the collapse of LIAT airline two to three years ago.

For the Eastern Caribbean, the airline’s failure in 2020 cut airlift from 500 weekly flights to 50 now.

“We don’t have to have a critical mass of political will for us to get to a harmonious solution,” said CDB Vice-President Isaac Solomon at the bank’s annual news conference. But, he added, “we are encouraged because at least seven governments approached us in August last year to begin the study … it is the start of a process.”

A long-term resolution would require a system that addresses the cost of transportation, regulatory issues around transport, and the bottlenecks that hamper seamless movement from country to country.

CDB President Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon said the bank views dependable and cost-effective air transportation services as essential for the transformation of several of the region’s economies.

“Consequently, to safeguard the region’s future, governments need to take decisive and integrated action to reform the air transportation operating environment,” he said at the news conference.

He acknowledged that there would be a series of hurdles and issues to overcome, including the assets required, the financing of those assets, as well as the legal framework and environment in which those assets would be deployed.

“Then you have to have the political arrangements in place that would say we are all benefiting from this. Networks cannot exist in segments … they have to exist in their entirety, and so connectivity of a network becomes a global public good,” the CDB president said.

Leon said establishing a regional transportation system would require two phases, starting with free movement among the 15-member Caricom bloc.

“That is a major problem not only for the people, but equally for our heads of state, our governments … ,” he said.

“Now, if we are citizens of the region, why can’t we ask for that right to be able to move freely across the region? So transportation is part of the CSME [Caricom Single Market & Economy] issue that we have to solve. We need to solve this urgent part now, and how we do it may or may not be optimal or efficient.”

But: “We need to get a service going,” Leon added.