Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wants countries in the region to invest in intra-regional travel. He believes that governments’ investment in air transportation in the region cannot be supplanted by the private investment sector only.
He made the disclosure during a press briefing on Monday.
According to him, Dominica is prepared to play its part financially. The Prime Minister referred to Leeward Island Air Transport (LIAT), indicating that it should be complemented–but not replaced–by the private sector airlines to give the kind of service that is really needed in these islands.
“The governments must invest in intra-regional travel,” he stated. “Because intra-regional travel for so many islands is really a public good that, while you want these entities to run professionally and greater accountability and greater transparency, there are certain things that you don’t expect from them.”
He continued, “Because they have to fly into areas that a commercial airline running as a private investment will not want to go into and that’s where LIAT was important.”
Skerrit added, “So I would rather I was declared to be wrong by history than I am correct by history.”
This he said is affecting “all of us badly, pointing to the dramatic effect on the economy since the departure of LIAT from the regional scene.
He asserted that this is why in most parts of the world, no matter how developed, the country’s treasury plays a role financially in the running of these airlines, “because of the greater good to the economy.”
The Prime Minister went on to defend his government’s decision to invest in LIAT.
“I hear people complain, including our own citizens about how difficult it is to travel intra-regionally. But I recall when I took the decision on behalf of the government to invest in LIAT. The political opponents of this government and some people in this country criticized me for investing money into LIAT…saying LIAT is a failed company and it makes no profit,” Skerrit argued. “And I cautioned Dominicans, I cautioned those people.”
He said, “If LIAT doesn’t come into Dominica for one day we will have a problem.”
Skerrit said further that he recognizes as Prime Minister of the country the important and unprecedented role that LIAT has played and was playing at the time in terms of intra-regional travel.
“And recognizing our investment, LIAT was most helpful to Dominica, especially after disasters,” he stated. “And I do not believe that there is any other entity that can reasonably be expected to replace the functions of LIAT in the region.”
Skerrit argued that in everything he does there will be people who will oppose him.
“Even if they are thirsty and I give them a glass of water they will have a problem with that,” he remarked. “We have to elevate the content of our discussion in this country.”
He went on to state that, “we cannot do without LIAT for one day, far more for its eternal departure.”
“We just cannot travel,” the Prime Minister stressed. “We can no longer book a flight this afternoon for tonight. You have to book a flight months in advance.”
The Prime Minister explained that to travel from Dominica to Grenada, “you have to go through Miami. And how many of us have a US Visa?”
He said this is a “regional emergency.”
He thanked Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Brown for his heroic effort in at least having a couple of the planes flying and providing the service.