Regional Transportation high on Caricom’s agenda

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By Radha Motielall in Trinidad & Tobago

cari2Matters pertaining to transportation within the Caribbean Community will be the focus in a special session of the Conference of Heads of Government.

Intra-regional transportation is facing serious challenges to the extent that, in the wake of a series of calls from both the public and privates sectors to address these challenges, special focus was placed on transportation issues at a Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) held in May, last, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The crescendo of largely negative positions on regional transportation had reached fever pitch on the eve of the Special COTED meeting with frustrations being expressed, particularly in the political and business spheres, in respect of the performance of the Region’s air carriers LIAT, Surinam Airways and Caribbean Airlines (CAL);  the unsustainable operations of startup carriers that seek to ply the regional routes; the high fuel and other costs that are transferred to the consumer as reflected in the steadily increasing cost of airline tickets; and the lack of a regional ferry service in the Southern Caribbean as an alternative means of intra-regional travel and shipping.

Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque had told the media then that he believes they “have to try and find a solution to the transportation problems that are plaguing us in the Community, not only in terms of inter-regional travel, but sometimes through the Region”.

He noted that the community’s “tourism depends on it, our trade and services…depend on transportation so we have to find solutions to our issues”.

The objectives to be pursued in this regard are: The organization of efficient, reliable, affordable transport services throughout the Community, The development and expansion of air and maritime transport capabilities in the Community, The promotion of cooperative arrangements for the provision of transport services, The development of efficient internationally competitive ancillary transport services, The development of human resources for employment in all areas and at all levels of the transport sector and The implementation of standards for the development of safe road, riverine, sea and air transport services.

During the opening ceremony of the Heads of Government Conference, Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell urged his colleagues to stop the blame game and name calling and come up with workable solutions.

Caricom Chair Kamla Persad-Bissessar called for the setting up of a special task force to look at the issue in its entirety.