Regional Heads Seek Solution to Airline Travel Debacle


As airline travel within the region and outside its borders continues to be of concern to Caribbean leaders, some proactive measures are being taken to help remedy the situation.

On Monday, Prime Minister Philp J. Pierre spoke to reporters about the latest developments in that sphere on the heels of a recent regional meeting with CARICOM heads to discuss the situation.

He said the airline travel issue is a worrisome matter that not only impacts the region but globally also, the issue is under review.

“The vexing issue of Caribbean travel continues, it has been there awhile since the demise of LIAT …it is a work in progress and we continue to work on it,” said PM Pierre.

He explained that while some countries “have subsidized regional airlines directly”, Saint Lucia has not done so, “but we think there needs to be a regional solution and we are working with other governments on it.”

PM Pierre noted that recently, VAT was removed on the purchase of aircraft and boats “so maybe …some private sector person may get into it and it’s a work in progress, but Saint Lucia has not paid any regional airline directly in terms of solving that problem.”

He added: “It is something that we are taking a regional approach …and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is in the process of completing a study to advise on these issues. But the problem continues… and our regional tourism suffers because of that, but it is a work in progress.”

Pierre further disclosed that Caribbean Airways would be increasing flights into Saint Lucia, between Trinidad & Tobago and Saint Lucia, and possibly between Barbados and Saint Lucia “so that may help us with our efforts.”

Commenting on the proposed reduction of taxes on airport departure fees, he reiterated that, “these are issues …that we should approach regionally.”

He said statistics determine that “taxes are a disincentive to travel”, yet the government has to find ways to increase its revenue, taking into account the matter of “physical issues, physical deficit, physical problems and there is the need for social expenditure and issues of education.”

Unfortunately, he said, collecting monies from airlines is the “easiest way” to collect revenue. “But …reducing taxes is something that can be considered, but Saint Lucia hasn’t taken a position in this regard,” the prime minister stated.

Pierre noted there has been a removal of VAT charges on the purchase and leasing of aircrafts “so that should make it cheaper” and also on boats “that would make it 12.5% cheaper …and that’s an incentive for the private sector to get involved since it’s a highly capped and intensive business.”

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