The Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, has said that provisions have been made in the 2010/11 Budget to satisfy the Government’s obligations to Air Jamaica’s staff.
“We have made provisions in the budget to satisfy, promptly, all our obligations to the staff of Air Jamaica, some of whom will be offered employment by Caribbean Airlines,” he said during his contribution to the 2010/11 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, today (April 20).
The Prime Minister told the House that Caribbean Airlines is committed to servicing the routes that are vital to Jamaica’s interests.
“They will fly these routes under the Air Jamaica flag, at least for the initial period, under licence from the Government of Jamaica,” he added.
He noted that while it would have been ideal to keep the airline “in Jamaican hands”, no plausible offer was forthcoming and every study done suggested that its chances of success hinged on being merged with another carrier, in order to achieve the necessary economies.
He lamented that, ever since the deregulation of commercial aviation internationally, air transportation has become a “cut-throat business” with over US$1 billion in accumulated losses.
The national carrier Air Jamaica and the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines have agreed on a new takeover deadline of April 30, pushed back from the previous target date of April 12.
In the meantime, the Prime Minster informed Parliament that the privatisation of the Sangster International Airport has gone well, and an enterprise team has been established to pursue a similar strategy for the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA).
He said that the NMIA offers significant new economic opportunities, including possible benefits from offering easier air travel between the Far East and sections of Europe, on the one hand, and South America, on the other.
“In recent times, the US Department of Homeland Security has introduced transit visa requirements for all but 36 countries. Passengers from all other countries are required to obtain transit visas in order to make connecting flights in the US,” he explained.
He said that NMIA which has significant excess capacity can provide a visa-free, hassle-free connecting point between these two ends of the world, adding that it offers significant possibilities for increased business in the provision of services and supplies to aircraft and in-transit passengers.
“It is a window of opportunity that will not remain open for long. Other neighbouring countries also recognise these opportunities, and we are moving swiftly to formally invite proposals for establishing NMIA as a strategic hub for transatlantic travel,” he added.
He said that expressions of interest have been received from a number of reputable entities.
He stated that privatisation programme, such as these, are critical in relieving the burden on commercial activities that have drained the public purse, and to allow for private capital to make the kind of investments in entities that the Government is not able to make.