IMF Recommends Operationalisation Of LIAT

(CMC) – The head of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation that ended a two-week visit here in Antigua and Barbuda is recommending that the authorities continue their efforts to strengthen the main engines of growth.

Assistant to the director at the Research Department of the IMF, Emine Boz, said in a statement that efforts should continue to increase flight connectivity and cruise ship homeporting.

“Operationalising LIAT would help to further improve intra-regional flight connectivity and complement the recent expansion of other airline companies’ presence in Antigua and Barbuda,” she added.

Last month, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his administration is going ahead with plans for establishing a new regional airline, even as it acknowledged a move by other subregional countries to do so.

Browne, responding to an opposition question regarding improved regional transportation, told legislators that it is well known that the government “has been struggling” with the cash-strapped LIAT (1974) Limited over the past three years.

Browne told legislators that as a result of a lack of commitment, his administration decided to pursue a new partner for the proposed LIAT 2020, “which will be a new legal entity that will not assume any of the liabilities of LIAT (1974)”.

“Whatever assets it acquires from LIAT 1974, LIAT 2020 will pay for them in full,” he said, acknowledging that “we were unable to attract investors from within the region, we went extra-regionally and that is why we had to establish a partnership with Air Peace”, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013.

BOOST TOURISM

Boz said that St John’s should continue to boost tourism during the low season, which would not only smooth hotel occupancy rates throughout the year, but also make the country a more attractive destination for airlines.

“Several cruise lines plan to use Antigua and Barbuda as a homeport, starting from 2023, and a further expanded capacity of the Antigua Cruise Port is expected to facilitate the arrival of larger cruise ships.”

She said also that measures should be taken to accelerate a reduction in unemployment and underemployment.

“Active labour market policies should be strengthened to help address the slow recovery in formal employment, which has remained almost 12 per cent below its 2019 level in 2022. The existing one-stop employment centre should enhance its capabilities to match employers with employees.

“The New Work Experience Programme should be made more effective by evaluating participants and by ensuring their successful exit from the programme. The mission welcomes investments in vocational training and local universities, while training opportunities could be further enhanced in vocational education.”

Boz said that it will be critical to further mobilise donor support for investments in climate resilience, and that Antigua and Barbuda is utilising funding from the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and Global Environment Facility to support 19 active projects of various sizes.