(CMC) — Antigua and Barbuda is to table a proposal Friday urging regional governments to support an initiative to significantly reduce air transport taxes in a bid to encourage intra-regional travel as the threat from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic declines.
Caricom leaders who are members of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) are due to meet later on Friday. A statement issued following the weekly Cabinet meeting in Antigua said that Prime Minister Gaston Browne will outline the proposal to his regional colleagues.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who has lead responsibility for CSME, will chair the meeting. The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services within the region.
“The prime minister, with Cabinet’s support, has proposed to his Caricom counterparts the reduction by 50 per cent of regional air transport taxes, in order to encourage regional travel, as the threat from COVID-19 declines,” said the statement.
“Travel within the Caribbean is the third largest source of income by airports, but COVID-19 has decimated this sector. The issue is how to revive this important sub-sector,” the statements added.
Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, told reporters that Prime Minister Browne, who is expected to assume the chairmanship of the regional integration movement at the net summit to be held in early July, will submit the proposal.
“Obviously the prime minister will put forward, the regime we have put in place in terms of lowering taxes and I think this will augur well for a return to increased travel amongst our Caribbean populations.
“Antigua and Barbuda is perhaps the best known metropolis for persons who are living here from each of the Caribbean states. They have families and they maintain family relations in their home country and often times they need to travel for family events…so this could only augur well and I think it will be a part of the agenda and part of the consideration for the Caricom meeting,” Nicholas added.
The Cabinet statement had also indicated that a reduction in taxes would encourage greater use of LIAT’s services in the Caribbean.
The financially-strapped Antigua-based regional airlines is seeking to rebound after being placed under court ordered administration.
St John’s is leading the effort to save the airline, whose principal shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.