Fri | Dec 1, 2023

IMF backs restart of LIAT

Antigua partnering with Nigerian investor on revival

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2023 | 12:06 AM

Visiting IMF officials have encouraged Antigua & Barbuda to press ahead with efforts to strengthen transport infrastructure in order to increase flight connectivity and cruise ship homeporting as engines of growth.

The delegation, which ended a visit to St John’s last week, was also for the restart of regional airline LIAT.

“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,” said the International Monetary Fund’s Assistant to the Director of the Research Department, Emine Boz, at the end of the two-week visit.

It comes as Antigua is looking to do a deal with a Nigerian investor to revive the loss-making carrier.

Last month, Browne advised Antiguan lawmakers that he had sought out a new partner for LIAT, after acknowledging that his government had failed to attract investors from within the region and struggling for the past three years to revive the carrier.

To facilitate the transaction with Air Peace, a private Nigerian airline founded in 2013, the government will be forming 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,” Browne said.

“We were unable to attract investors from within the region, [so] we went extra-regionally and that is why we had to establish a partnership with Air Peace,” he said.

Boz said 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.