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Antigua awaiting responses from Caribbean countries on LIAT’s debt

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne says he is still awaiting formal responses from Caribbean governments regarding his request to write-off the debt owed to them by the cash-strapped regional airline LIAT.

Prime MInister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne (File photo)

In July, the Antigua and Barbuda High Court granted a petition allowing for the reorganisation of the airline, the appointment of an administrator, as well as staying all proceedings relating to the liquidation of the company.

The decision of the court in granting the petition comes as the Government moved ahead with its efforts to reorganise the airline, which owes creditors in excess of EC$100 million.

Apart from Antigua and Barbuda, the former major shareholder governments of the airline are Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica.

“In a reorganised LIAT, creditors will be asked to take a cut up to 100 per cent in some instances, but on average about 50 per cent.”

– Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne

Browne said he had written to the leaders of those countries and was awaiting an official response to his request.

“I have not heard formally from Prime Minister (Dr Ralph) Gonsalves but he has given an undertaking that St. Vincent and the Grenadines will write-off the liability of EC$40 million, of which we are appreciative. The fact that he is standing in solidarity with us — because what we are trying to do is get these liabilities written down so there could be some level of severance to the workers.

“I am pretty sure (Dominica) Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, his Government will be writing off their arrears and we are now waiting to hear from (Barbados) Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the others within the region to get something definitive from them,” Browne said.

LIAT owes its creditors more than EC$100 million in debt.

Last week, the secretary general of the Waterfront and Allied Workers Union (WAWU) in Dominica, Kertist Augustus, said that his members have expressed concern at being kept in the dark regarding the restructuring of the Antigua-based airline.

He said the workers of LIAT here are concerned “because there is no information and, therefore, they are at a disadvantage.

“Some might be in a position to get temporary jobs and they are concerned whether, in fact, that would impact in any way their continuity with LIAT. So this is the situation: They have not had an updated position from LIAT in relation to the last discussions that we had,” Augustus said.

According to the new reorganisational plan, a copy of which has been obtained by the CMC, Antigua and Barbuda is proposing reinvestment of EC$108 million, with the Government indicating that under the new plan, it is prepared to underwrite up to 50 per cent of the required capitalisation.

“The new capital invested during reorganisation will be protected, in that it will rank in priority above all other creditors in the unlikely event of liquidation,” it said, noting that the remaining EC$54 million will be shared by other private and public sector entities, including existing shareholder governments.

Prime Minister Browne had in an earlier interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) said that the reorganised LIAT (I974) Limited would be different from a restructured entity, “where you restructuring to sustain debts but you have no deep cuts.

“In a reorganised LIAT, creditors will be asked to take a cut up to 100 per cent in some instances, but on average about 50 per cent. The staff we expect, a 50 per cent reduction in the staff liabilities because if they go to liquidation they will be lucky to get 10 per cent,” he added.

— CMC