LIAT, Scotiabank, regional leadership dominate OECS news conference

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — At a news conference following the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), two-day meeting, the dominant concerns related to LIAT’s future, Scotiabank divestment to Republic Financial Holdings Limited and regional leadership.

Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit reiterated that the regional private sector and other stakeholders should consider ownership interest in LIAT and the continued development of the region.

“It is not enough to just say well LIAT is this, LIAT is that – come to the table. If you are not around the table it is going to be very difficult for you to influence the decisions,” Skerrit said.

“We just have to close our eyes for a few seconds and appreciate the impact on the way of life of ordinary citizens and businesses in this region if LIAT were to cease its operations … there are economic consequences,” he added.

“LIAT is a very critical part of our survival in Dominica and you cannot remove the airline from the equation. We continue to be a shareholder and Dominica will play a bigger role in LIAT,” he said.

This follows Skerrit’s decision earlier this year to commit Dominica to the “sustainability and sustenance” of LIAT in recognition of the significant economic impact on Dominica’s housing revolution, citizenship by investment (CIP) and the tourism industry.

Prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said that while his country is soon to start negotiations with Barbados to purchase its shares in the airline, “we have others who we are having discussions with” referencing, he would be speaking with the premier of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Andrew Fahie.

Browne is of the view that everyone should be concerned about the fate of the regional carrier, placing it towards a path of viability and sustainability.

Concerning Republic Financial Holdings Limited announcement last November, that it has agreed to acquire Scotiabank’s operations in the Eastern Caribbean because it’s in the best interest of the people.

Browne also requires assurances that local banks will be given priority to purchase the Scotiabank’s operations in Antigua and Barbuda and that local customers’ investments and saving will be protected.

In a letter to the Bank of Nova Scotia Browne stated: “The government of Antigua and Barbuda makes it clear that its primary concern is to build resilience in the local banking sector and reduce its vulnerability to de-risking strategies employed by foreign-owned entities that weaken our national capacity to participate in the global financial and trading system effectively.”

He added, “It is important that the ownership of the vital banking sector be re-balanced to improve the strength and capacity of local shareholding. This in no way affects foreign-owned banks that now operate in Antigua and Barbuda.”