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Air Jamaica divestment and attitudes to CARICOM

Published:Thursday | February 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor,

THE PUBLIC debate currently raging over the fate of Air Jamaica has unveiled a certain troubling attitude among some Jamaicans to CARICOM in general, and to Trinidad and Tobago in particular.

For these Jamaicans, the debate has not been pursued exclusively on the basis of what corporate, operational and financing plan - whether under Jamaican or non-Jamaican ownership and control - would be most beneficial for the airline and for Jamaica. Rather, much of the public discussion has been fuelled by passionate demands that as a matter of national pride, the icon that the airline has become in the eyes of most Jamaicans should remain an irremovable plank in our national patrimony.

It would be a happy circumstance, indeed, if this admittedly sincere patriotic outlook coincided with a strategy that is technically, financially and economically optimal for the airline and the country. For most of us, however, the jury is still out on this as there are many details concerning the options for divestment that are not publicly known.

Whatever the objective pros and cons may be regarding Jamaican or non-Jamaican ownership of the airline, one finds deeply disturbing the almost visceral hostility on the part of some to the possibility of Trinidadian/Caribbean Airlines ownership, as such, without regard to any other consideration. It is curious that similar hostility was not shown to the interest of the non-regional foreign bidder that was in the queue ahead of Caribbean Airlines- but admittedly, there seems to be a tendency in all or most
regional countries to favour extra-CARICOM over intra-CARICOM
interests. This attitude is one of a piece with similar disquiet in
some quarters over the entry in recent times of Trinidadian and other
CARICOM capital and management into various sectors of the Jamaican
economy. It is useful to ask whether Jamaica has been the worse for

All this is not to say that we should treat lightly
with Jamaican concerns over Air Jamaica, including in particular the
substantial asset represented by the patriotic attachment to the
airline by Jamaicans at home and abroad. What is being urged here is
that the larger vision of our place in CARICOM should form a backdrop
to the pros and cons of divestment of Air Jamaica to Caribbean
Airlines, and that legitimate Jamaican interests be protected in that

I am, etc.,

Roderick Rainford