JIS News

The Government has announced its intention to divest the national airline, Air Jamaica, by 2009. Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Senator Don Wehby, made the announcement in his address at the Investment Seminar hosted by the Jamaica Money Market Brokers on Tuesday, (Nov. 27), at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
Senator Wehby, who spoke on the topic: ‘The Paradigm Shift on Managing Jamaica’s Debt and Fiscal Accounts,” said that “the level of Government’s support necessary to keep the airline in operation is unsustainable. It must be recognized that continuation of this level of support to the airline is at the expense of the country’s social services.”
The Government, Mr. Wehby stated, is in the process of recruiting an investment banker to lead the divestment process and to ensure that the advantages are maximized.
“We hope to have restructured and divested Air Jamaica, such that it is no longer a strain on the budget by the latest March 2009,” Minister Wehby said, adding that, “these decisions, though difficult politically, are in keeping with the Government’s commitment to sustainable macro-economic stability.”
He noted that while operating inefficiencies are to a large extent controllable and can over time be remedied, it is also recognized that factors in the global environment, particularly rising oil prices, are outside the control of the airline and unfavourable to its future viability.
However, the Minister pointed out that the airline has retained “considerable strategic advantages,” highlighting its status as a principal international flag carrier; the contribution of international tourists to increasing its potential customer base; its highly respected network serving the Caribbean; and its young fleet with good lift capacity.

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