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London: CAL forcing airlines to blank Tobago
Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly Orville London has expressed his dissatisfaction with the role Caribbean Airlines is playing in the island’s tourism industry. And he made his feelings known to Prime Minister Kamla Persad–Bissessar when they met for the first time for a year and since the new Executive Council was elected on January 21. The meeting was held on Friday at the Parliament building in Port-of-Spain.
Speaking with the media after the meeting London said Finance Minister Larry Howai and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal were also at the meeting and he described the discussions as “cordial.” London said there were general agreements on many of the issues raised and recommendations made but needed some clarification on other matters.
Speaking on the issue of Tobago’s tourism industry, London said he was not comfortable with the role Caribbean Airlines (CAL) was playing. During Friday’s meeting the Chief Secretary said he indicated to Howai that CAL was using its subsidies from the central government to introduce predatory pricing on routes into T&T, deterring foreign airlines from bringing people to Tobago.
London said CAL, the central government and the THA’s idea of commercial viability were out of sync as it should be based on how it was impacting the national economy. “We are losing price, we are losing taxpayers’ money to place Caribbean Airlines in a position where it can bring down the pricing, deter airlines and of course the tourism sector in Tobago is suffering.
“I therefore recommended that cannot be a situation where the Ministry of Finance just gives money and funding to CAL and tell them to be commercially viable. Their idea of commercial viability is not in sync with mine and I requested that each route should in fact be examined,” London said. On the issue of the THA’s representation on state boards London said when the Government assumed office in 2010, the Tobago House of Assembly was represented on 30 boards but its representation has decreased to five.
He added: “This makes an administrative challenge because boards and committees make decisions without the input of the Tobago House of Assembly in areas where the THA has control and responsibility. “I drew reference to the TDC, NCC and the Port Authority. Internal self-government for Tobago was also discussed.”
He said he recommended the THA put together a team of representatives of the political interests and technocrats from Tobago to meet with a team from the central government to decide on a common position on the issue. London said he also raised the issue of housing for Tobago. He said whereas at the national level, billions were raised for housing via bonds, Tobago had to build all its houses by cash and described the predicament as “preposterous.”
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