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Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has sought to explain Government’s position on the provision of the guarantee of US$4.5 million, to American Airlines.
Addressing representatives of the Committee for a Better Jamaica, at the West Club in Manhattan, New York yesterday (Sept 22), Mr. Golding said the support to American Airlines, was critical to ensure that the airline maintains its flights to Jamaica. He said this figure was far less than what Government has to be paying out to Air Jamaica. “We pay out $4.5 million every fortnight for Air Jamaica and Air Jamaica continues to lose over US$100million – a loss which the Government cannot continue to sustain,” Mr. Golding said.
He noted that American Airlines, like other international carriers, has been forced to cut back on its flights to the Caribbean region because of the increased fuel prices. “‘That could spell disaster for us because despite the difficulties, our tourism arrivals have increased. We had to support American Airlines because of the hubs, the networks and the strategic and critical gateways that it serves, to ensure we get the flow we usually get coming out of particular gateways”, Mr. Golding said.
He explained that Government is not drawing a cheque to the airline, but is providing a guarantee, that says if the airline’s passenger load falls between 66 and 74 percent, they can call on the guarantee to pay the difference. However, Mr. Golding noted that American Airlines plans to use relatively small aircraft and so it would not be difficult for them to fill those seats. He said Government is confident that with the right kind of marketing, the airline will be able to retain the flow of passengers from the critical gateways.
“We have to become more attractive and appealing despite the difficulties we have experienced this past year”, Mr. Golding told the gathering of successful Jamaican and American business men and women in New York. He said he is convinced that Jamaica is on the right road, to attract the right kinds of investment activity and will see the kind of growth that will transform the country and provide a better quality of life for Jamaicans.
Mr. Golding made reference to the Economic Partnership Agreement -(EPA), noting that his team will be aggressively marketing Jamaica to US investors, as the place for new investments under the duty free quota free access to European markets through this agreement. The Prime Minister is in New York, to address the 63rd United Nations General Assembly meeting on Friday, and to attend a number of other high level meetings, including a meeting with CARICOM Heads of Government and the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, led by former US President, Bill Clinton. He will also be visiting Washington, for meetings with the IDB and the World Bank. He has also been meeting with several Jamaican Groups in New York.