The Board of Directors at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved a technical assistance grant to develop interim arrangements that it hopes will address the air transportation crisis affecting the Eastern Caribbean since LIAT’s collapse.
Isaac Solomon, the Bank’s Vice President of Operations said the proposed technical assistance grant will provide member governments with feasible options for urgent improvement in airlift capacity.
The decision was made during a meeting on December 9, following requests from the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for assistance to examine and address airlift capacity challenges in the region.
LIAT, the main intra-island air carrier in the Eastern Caribbean collapsed during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, after having faced years with little to no profit margin.
According to the CDB, currently, LIAT operates 50 flights a week, which is a 90% decline from almost 500 flights weekly prior to its shutdown.
“The significantly reduced airlift capacity has stymied the movement of goods, services and people to the detriment of tourism, trade, employment, business activity and social relations,” a press statement read.
CDB said because intra-regional movement of people and goods is integral to regional cooperation and integration, it has paced this high priority on “supporting the provision of dependable and cost-effective air transportation within the region”.
While the CDB did not expressly state whether these measures involved commissioning other regional airlines, the bank said it plans to finance consultancy services which will “devise urgent measures to re-establish regular air transport services within the sub-region”.
The consultancy will cover gender responsive and socially inclusive recommendations on the nature and proposed structure of an aviation solution going forward, a costed and fully funded business plan, as well as staffing considerations for implementation.
At a later date, the bank said it will also consider options for a permanent solution to the air travel problems in the Eastern Caribbean.
According to the statement, the consultancy will develop interim solutions to ease the current capacity deficit and define immediate actions required of participating governments to ensure that regular inter-island air service can be restored with dispatch.
N.B CDB responds to the needs of its Borrowing Member Countries through a range of programmes, designed to support economic and social development throughout the Region.
The programmes provide technical assistance and grant funding, among other things, and in some cases, are supported in collaboration with other development partners.