Jamaica | Mar 1, 2023

Getting regional transportation going again

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CDB president proposes two-stage process

The Caribbean Development Bank’s Bridgetown headquarters in Barbados. (Photo: LinkedIn for @CaribBank)

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Hyginus Gene Leon has put forward a “two-stage process” for getting regional transportation going again.

Arguing that building out an effective air and sea transportation system in the region is an imperative, Dr. Leon proposes that “as an immediate solution” to the region’s transportation woes, CARICOM leaders should come together to create an air transportation system that allows all member states to have access to frequent airlift similar to what existed prior to the demise of regional carrier, LIAT.

A crucial part of the proposal is that regional governments provide temporary support, noting that the plan would put together a system that is going to be “viable and sustainable over the long-haul.”

Setting out the framework

According to the CDB President, “we need as a first stage, to have a coordinating mechanism that would take all of the assets that exist in the region and create a connectivity system that would allow for all routes, economically viable, under-served – to be able to travel and meet the needs at least going back to what was there before COVID. We all know what happened during COVID”.

Responding to a question at the first Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry business luncheon for the year, held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre developed on his plan for beefing up regional air transportation.

He explained: “Clearly, some of those routes are not viable and so if you are going to serve those routes there must be some support mechanism to allow those routes to fly for some period of time. You need to establish what is the tolerance, the threshold of support that is needed to make this happen and give yourself a window during which that support will be operationalised.”

The CDB president suggested that, while some governments might be quick to dismiss the idea of providing financial support for a time, stating that it could very well be cheaper than the current situation. Admitting that not having effective regional air transportation was resulting in loss time with residents having to connect through the US, Leon acknowledged the loss of job opportunities and a limitation to the region’s tourism product as the end result.

Dr Gene Leon, president of the Caribbean Development Bank.

For him, “whatever revenue guarantees you are giving to other airlines to at least let them ply the few routes they are doing, I can assure you that cost will be many times the cost of any support needed for a short period of time,” positing that the newly-designed regional air transportation plan would require “a lean management” that would help to drive demand.

Looking beyond population demand

He made the point that the regional territories need to get around the idea that its demand is simply not solely based on its population “because your population on its own may never be viable. What if you can, in the principle of policy, talk about a tourism product that says ‘every one country you go to you could see two for the price of one’ for example. We need to be seeing ourselves as a region.”

Continuing, Leon said: “We need to move beyond the boundaries of one country. We need to start seeing a marketing of the region, opening up the regulatory space that allows more of those things to happen without impediments… .Those are details, but in principle, you can generate and create demand and make things viable . . . through a sharing mechanism.”

The second step, he argued would be to identify technologies that could replace the need for fuel-powered airlines.


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