The initial half of an $8 million cash injection from Dominica to troubled regional airline LIAT is expected to be made within a matter of days, according to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
He told DNO on Friday that the Dominica Government was holding talks with LIAT on the matter, and that it intended going ahead with the first $4 million dollar investment that would result in Dominica becoming an equity shareholder of the company.
“We have to discuss with LIAT, we are not going to dive into this thing without knowing what is below the ocean, so we are in discussions with LIAT about this, and once we finalise our discussions with them the monies will be transferred to them,” Prime Minister Skerrit told DNO.
“It is important that Dominica play a part to protect Dominica’s interest and to also secure our investment in tourism,” the prime minister said.
“If LIAT were to stop flying, one can appreciate the tremendous untold difficulties which would be brought on to Dominica,” he said.
In response to criticism of the move PM Skerrit said “We are not unmindful of LIAT’s financial problems and present financial predicament”.
However he pointed out that there appeared to be no private sector people willing to invest in LIAT, and Dominica had to act despite suggestions that it was investing in a company that is failing.
The prime minister argues that some companies “which play a more important role than the bottom line” have to be supported.
He made reference locally to water company DOWASCO and the main Princess Margaret Hospital as essential services which had to be subsidized, and said his government sees LIAT in that same vein.
To critics who say the $8 million promised LIAT could be better utilized locally, PM Skerrit responds that their suggestion that he is neglecting the country in favor of a regional entity misses the point.
“I am protecting Dominica, because without LIAT the hotels cannot be filled, the taxi operators cannot be used, we cannot get departure tax, we cannot get the increase in our revenue, and people cannot come to do business’” he argued.
“We have to spend money in other areas, and of course we could have used the money for a number of other areas,” the prime minister acknowledged.
However he is not backing down on what he considers the important move of Dominica becoming an equity shareholder of LIAT in the interest of ensuring the island’s air travel needs are met.
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