PM Browne calls on regional leaders to address transport challenges as he chides free riders

Prime Minister Gaston Browne
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Prime Minister Gaston Browne is once again calling on regional governments to commit to improving regional transportation.

Browne used his turn at the podium at the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo in Guyana to not only raise some of the pertinent issues affecting Antigua and Barbuda in agriculture, but challenged leaders to address the matter of transportation urgently.

“A regional approach is necessary to increase food production in all of our territories, but it is not sufficient to produce more food if we fail to establish the means to transport and distribute it. Let us not fool ourselves, if we do not have adequate transportation, then all our efforts will be in vain. In this regard, reliable regional transportation by air and by sea is imperative and urgently requires attention.

“There’s a tendency in this region in which we have some free riders – everyone wants transportation, but no one wants to pay for it. We have to implement a program of shared benefits and shared burden, so I implore our colleagues to address this very important issue of transportation urgently,” Browne said.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, who spoke after PM Browne, also addressed the issue of regional travel.

“We have to ensure that our ports of entry, as you heard from Prime Minister Browne, are priority areas of investment to facilitate the movement of cargo and people and in this moment, when maritime transport is at its greatest challenge, we have to recognise that the bridge to resuscitating Caribbean tourism air transport may well be having regional air cargo moving to help offset the investment to move our people,” Mottley added.

She said the Caricom sub-region may also need to choose a different approach to regional transportation.

“We may need to look at different planes, and we may need to look at more regular traffic, and that is why the example shown to us in Belize when we went to the last Heads of Government with the use of the grand caravans, with the regularity of movement may well be the solution for us, rather than these larger aircraft that move once or twice a day.

“Our people need regular affordable access to air transport, and not just simply on a periodic basis,” Mottled said.

Regional leaders have been at odds over the direction of regional travel for some time with the rift growing deeper after the grounding of regional carrier, LIAT, in early 2020.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has been calling on regional governments to support efforts to strengthen the airline, which has been under court-sanctioned administration for almost two years.

Observer understands that the carrier now operates a limited schedule with one aircraft.

There have been talks of multiple regional governmental and investor interests in the airline, but neither the government nor the administrator have announced a final deal.

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