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Outgoing Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Jamaica Limited, Dr. Vincent Lawrence has said the airline was far healthier financially and operationally than the Air Jamaica his team took over in December 2004.
Speaking at a Press Conference to announce the new Air Jamaica Board yesterday (October 19), at the Ministry of Finance at Heroes Circle Offices, Dr. Lawrence also noted that the airline’s problems would not be solved overnight.
“The issues facing the airline will not be fixed overnight and it still has a far way to go,” he said adding that over the next two to three years the carrier must continue to improve its cost structure and optimise its operational efficiencies.
“This is the only way it can effectively survive and become viable in a highly price sensitive, competitive and volatile market,” he further explained. Dr. Lawrence chaired an interim Board appointed by Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies when the Government reassumed control of the national airline in December 2004. The interim Board was appointed for six months to carry out specific tasks, at the end of which a new permanent Board was to be appointed.
However Minister Davies asked the interim board to remain in place for an additional three months to complete the restructuring process.
In the mean time the Finance Minister announced that returning interim Board member, Owen K. Melhado would be taking over as Chairman of the Board whilst American Michael Conway, a 30-year veteran in the airline industry would be the new Chief Executive Officer as of November 1, 2005.
The 12-member board comprises four new faces including University of the West Indies (UWI) student Sophia Lowe; Dr. Jeffrey Meeks, Orthodontist; Professor Rex Nettleford, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI); and businessman Horace Reid. A workers’ representative will also be named shortly.
The returning members include Noel Hylton, President and CEO of the Port Authority of Jamaica; Derrick Latibeaudiere, Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ); Dr Vincent Lawrence, Executive Chairman of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC); government Senator, Noel Sloley; Millicent Hughes, Accountant General; and Paul Pennicook, Director of Tourism.
The Minister noted that under the interim Board significant financial and operational restructuring of the airline had taken place and commended Dr. Lawrence for the work he had done.
“He [Dr. Lawrence] undertook this assignment despite all his other major responsibilities. This clearly demonstrates his commitment to serving the nation and for this due recognition is paid,” Dr. Davies said.
Dr. Lawrence will remain on the Board until the end of the year.