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Prime Minister Bruce Golding says Government could not continue to carry the burden of Air Jamaica as the airline had already racked up losses of US$170-million which could increase further this year. He said Cabinet took a decision yesterday to strengthen the approach towards ensuring that Government can privatize the airline by March 31, 2009.
Mr. Golding told the Jamaica Exporters Association at the launch of National Export Week at the Hilton hotel yesterday (June 23) that Government would have to absorb over US$1-billion in losses by the airline. He said he was aware of the importance of Air Jamaica to the country and to tourism and the passion that Jamaicans feel towards the airline. However, he said Jamaica is loosing J$10-Billion a year on the airline.
Mr. Golding used the occasion to bring the JEA members up to date on a number of issues affecting the economy. He said Government is also determined to privatize the sugar industry. Following a meeting yesterday morning with the privatization team, Government is at the final stages of the negotiations with just a few issues to be resolved.
The negotiating team will return to the table tomorrow. The Prime Minister assured that they are determined to resolve those issues then so that an agreement can be reached in principle by the original deadline of June 30. Mr. Golding said if an agreement is arrived at, he intends to begin the process of transferring the sugar assets to the new entity commencing July 1st. The prime Minister said the date was important as certain arrangements must be in place to secure the 2008/2009 crop. He said he is satisfied that the team had done well with only two issues left to be resolved.
Between Air Jamaica and the sugar industry, Mr. Golding said Government has accumulated losses of some $100-billion and the first order of business must be to cut these losses so that they do not become the responsibility of our grand children.
National Export week is being observed by the JMA from June 22-27.