Thursday 7th April, 2005

 

Lok Jack to steer BWIA into future

 
 
 
 
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BY GIZELLE MORRIS

The Government is expected to announce the appointment of a task force to oversee operations at BWIA during today’s post-Cabinet press briefing.

Sources said the five-member task force is headed by businessman Arthur Lok Jack.

Other members are said to be William Lucie-Smith, retired senior partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers; Gervase Warner, Neal and Massy director; Dr Shafeek Sultan-Khan, industrial relations consultant and economist Terrence Farrell.

Government sources said the task force had been given a time frame of five weeks to review the airline’s operations and report to Cabinet.

“They are looking at everything and will report directly to the Prime Minister.”

Sources said the task force, which has been operating for the past two to three weeks, was looking at three options:

n The consequences of shutting down the airline

n Shutting down the airline and starting afresh

n Restructuring.

The task force, sources said, was also looking at how to maintain air links if T&T did not have an airline and to evaluate BWIA’s route structure.

“This may include discontinuing certain routes,” a Government source said.

Among the routes on the chopping board, sources said, were BWIA’s proposed flights to Prestwick in Scotland and Belfast in Ireland.

When contacted by telephone yesterday, Lok Jack said he was in a meeting and would not be able to take the call.

He suggested that the Guardian call him back today.

BWIA’s line Minister, Trade and Industry Minister Kenneth Valley, and Public Administration and Information Minister Dr Lenny Saith were also said to be in meetings when calls were made to their respective offices.

A source said it was “highly unlikely” that Lok Jack would be taking up the position of BWIA’s CEO, or that the airline’s board would be replaced by members of the task force.

In addition to reviewing the airline’s operations, the task force, a source said, might have also been given a directive to set up a holding company for the airline.

Saith, chairman of a Cabinet sub-committee to review BWIA’s strategic plan, said all would be revealed today.

A report, submitted to the Government last year by the New York-based consultants Simat, Hellisen and Eichner (SH&E), said the shutdown of BWIA would result in a significant loss of air service for the nation.

“Even a modest reduction in service would adversely impact the airline’s currently strong competitive position, weaken its image in the travel agency community, which will adversely impact demand for its services and would have a significant impact on the national economy,” the report said.

According to the airline’s strategic plan, as of January, 2005, BWIA became insolvent.

It also said the airline needed an injection of US$109 million to attain “a safe financial position.”

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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