Devant Maharaj: Lok Jack can’t advise me
Thursday, June 21 2012
TRANSPORT MINISTER Devant Maharaj said he is not taking any advice from former Caribbean Airlines (CAL) chairman Arthur Lok Jack or using a report developed by the board which Lok Jack chaired, in order to determine which routes the airline will or will not be pursuing under its merger arrangement with Air Jamaica. Maharaj made this declaration when he spoke to reporters following the launch of CAL’s Trinidad to Gatwick, London service at Piarco International Airport last Thursday.
Lok Jack chaired the board of CAL prior to May 24, 2010 when the People’s Partnership assumed office. Maharaj told reporters he would be going to Jamaica before the end of this month to hold talks with Jamaica’s Transport Minister Omar Davies on matters pertaining to the CAL-Air Jamaica merger.
Reminded by reporters that Lok Jack’s board had prepared a report containing recommendations regarding the profitability of Air Jamaica’s routes, Maharaj was asked whether he would be using the contents of that report to assist in developing a strategy to improve the operations of both airlines under the merger.
“I take no advice from a PNM-appointed board because the documents they left proved to be very worthless,” Maharaj declared. He claimed Air Jamaica suffered losses of $45 million before the merger took place under the former PNM government but the Lok Jack board “recommended we take over these routes as a profitable enterprise and could result in some 68 percent profitability for CAL.”
“I am very suspicious to embrace their projections and analysis,” Maharaj stated. On May 4, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran told the Parliament that CAL suffered a total loss of $584 million last year. That figured included a loss of $339 million for CAL and $245 million for Air Jamaica. Dookeran also indicated at that sitting of Parliament that out of a sum of US$6 million which CAL had pledged to donate to the Children’s Life Fund, a pet project of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, only US$200,000 had in fact been donated.
With respect to the London route, Maharaj said CAL must ensure this route is profitable in under one year’s time or it could be scrapped. In his earlier address at the launch, Maharaj recalled the sale of BWIA’s slots at London’s Heathrow International Airport. He said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was very close to completing a forensic audit into “the steal of the Heathrow slots.” Stating he recently held discussions with members of the Tobago division of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce in the sister isle about airlift capacity for the island, Maharaj boasted CAL had increased its number of flights to Tobago.
He claimed in spite of this, “the still belligerent THA (Tobago House of Assembly)” refuses to meet with him. He hinted this would change when the THA elections are held next year. The THA is currently controlled by the PNM.
Saying the London route could provide CAL with access to the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Iceland), Maharaj said CAL is looking at a Tobago to JFK route as well.