Opposition Leader Dr. Godwin Friday has qualified the airfare to be paid per Vincentian student on their one-way LIAT flight home as “utterly ridiculous.”
A letter sent from the SVG Consulate in Jamaica on May 5, announced that “the government is in the process of making arrangements to have LIAT in St. Vincent collect all” of the US $1339.29 per student if all 56 seats onboard the aircraft were filled. That price is likely to go up if fewer people subscribe to the trip.
“I know that LIAT is expensive across the region but this is outrageous; and you know in the parliament on April 7, when we voted for the stimulus package even though we had concerns about it and I raised this issue about LIAT.
“We gave LIAT $2.7M as part of the COVID relief stimulus package. A regional airline we gave them $2.7M and we can’t find the money to bring our students home? The very most those students should pay is what they would normally pay if they were not affected by COVID and I’m told that’s about US $400 per person,” Dr. Friday said in a Facebook post.
The Northern Grenadines MP further opined that the government and LIAT should have subsidized the outstanding US $939.29 given the recent allocations to the ailing airline’s coffers.
He also noted the economic value of the qualifications being sought by the students and juxtaposed the Dr. Gonsalves-led government response to this particular COVID-19 development to that of Timothy Harris’ in neighboring St. Kitts and Nevis.
“St. Kitts paid the entire US $75 000 to take its students home. If St. Kitts can do this because they recognize the value of their students why we can’t do – in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – meet the students where they can afford it?”
“They have budgeted already for the fare US $400.00 that is the most we should require them to do. In fact having paid LIAT $2.7M as part of the stimulus package as part of COVID relief. That should be used to subsidize the students to come home, it’s the least we can do.
“And this is why I say that we have to put the money where the pain is. Right now the students are feeling the pain. The sailors who’re abroad they’re feeling the pain and we’re nickeling and diming and trying to figure out how to pass the costs onto individuals when there are funds here to deal with it.”