Editorial: A seat at the table

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The recent cabinet briefing notes indicated that the Prime Minister reported to the cabinet on his meeting in Barbados.  His primary purpose for visiting the ‘land of the flying fish,’ was to attend a meeting of the LIAT shareholders.  Wait, before you suck your teeth and move on to another topic, this is worth a discussion because LIAT is too vital an institution to the region to simply ignore and turn our backs.  We know it is painful, but few things in life that are worth it are easy.
According to the notes, the Prime Minister stated that there “is definitely a need for greater cooperation among the LIAT shareholders and the non-shareholder states that benefit from the regional airline.”   As obvious as that statement is, there is a need to highlight it because it is a fact.  A regional air transportation carrier is something that needs a united approach and it is imperative that shareholder and non-shareholder governments get together to find a solution.  
We are not advocating that we should just accept that LIAT is and will always be a money-losing airline but the stark reality is, it is exactly that right now.  Having just a few countries shoulder that burden is unfair and unreasonable.  There is a saying that ‘many hands make light work’ and the same concept can be applied to spreading the burden of subsidies among all LIAT destinations.
It is easy to think that LIAT will be there forever but that may not be the case.  As the notes pointed out, “Barbados’ current fiscal position, forcing it into an IMF Stand-by Program
for nearly US$300 million, would not allow for that 51% shareholder country to
provide significant fiscal support to LIAT at this time.”  If the majority shareholder cannot support the airline because of financial constraints, what happens?  Others will have to step into the breach and shore up the economic defences.  That is what happens in a community.
Unfortunately, the nations of the Caribbean never seem to be able to function well as a community, even when their best interests are at stake.  We are sure that it would not take much of an in-depth economic analysis to determine the impact of not having a regional airline, so we are unsure of what the non-shareholder government’s are waiting for to get involved.  What they stand to lose is greater than what they will contribute.
We have heard all the excuses but what we haven’t heard is the alternative plan.  Some nations have said that they will not become shareholders until LIAT cleans up its act, but what specific cleanup are they referring to?  Everyone knows that something needs to be done to change the airline’s fortunes but that requires all hands on deck.  As we have stated before, when there is a problem, the more minds working on the problem, the greater the chance of a solution.  If we restrict the number of minds contemplating a problem and searching for a solution, we restrict the chances of finding a good solution.
That brings us to the revelation that only one trade union attended the meeting.  We would love to know why.  Speak to any LIAT employee and they have ideas to improve the airline.  Why not represent that body of intellect and knowledge at high-level meetings like this?  We are not going to get into the politics or reasons for not attending because we do not have all the facts, but we have to ask: when do we put aside the bad blood and start a unified approach to finding a meaningful solution?
In the world of business, and beyond, there is a phrase that talks about having “a seat at the table.”  It refers to being part of the decision-making group, and those limited seats are usually highly sought after – everyone wants a seat at the table!  In this case, however, it appears that the unions have abdicated their right to their seat.  How then can they criticise those who make decisions at the table?
Again, we do not know all the reasons regarding the lack of representation by the unions but we are more than a bit puzzled by their absence.  We would think that their members would want a strong advocacy at the decision-making table as they are people who may have the best ideas and they are the ones that have to live with the decisions made.  
We have heard one side so we will await the other side.  We hope that the union(s) will share their take on the challenges that face LIAT and will explain why they have decided that it is better to sit on the sidelines.  

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