BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 22 2016 – Barbados has pumped up to $150 million into the beleaguered regional air carrier LIAT, Finance Minister Chris Sinckler said Tuesday.
He explained this is how the Government of Barbados became the single largest shareholder with 49 percent equity as Barbados was given more shares in the airline which was unable to pay back the money.
Sinckler made the disclosure as he led off debate of a resolution seeking the House of Assembly’s approval for $33 million which the government has provided LIAT between the financial years 2012-2013 and 2015-2016.
The Finance Minister said Barbados has had to give LIAT money to either finance its day to day operations or pay for equipment.
“There’s still an outstanding amount of close to $100 million, potentially more, because I still have the staff investigating, trying to find out how many advances were made by the last administration to LIAT that would not have passed through the regular estimates of appropriations of the House of Assembly,” Sinckler said.
“Once that information is in, I give the House and the public the assurance that we will bring it to parliament, have it properly booked in the system so that the public records will reflect that it was laid.”
Meantime, opposition Member of Parliament Ronald Toppin accused the government of pumping money, which could have been used for roads or other critical issues here, into LIAT.
Toppin said LIAT has been subsidized for more than 40 years and it’s time for some serious decisions as Barbados needs to get some returns for its investment.
“LIAT still cannot stand on its own two feet. Oil prices, Mr. Chairman, have gone down and at the same time, despite that, lower oil prices which would lower anyone’s operating costs, LIAT still cannot stand on its own two feet. This is unsustainable,” Toppin said.
“LIAT has Sir, in my view, grossly under-performed as a regional carrier. The reality now is that the burden of the operation and the inefficiencies of LIAT have now fallen disproportionately on the shoulders of few governments including and perhaps especially Barbados and the unrelenting injecting of money into LIAT really cannot continue.”