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Christie denies ‘Chinese deal’ for Bahamasair

Prime minister speaks of ‘new paradigm’ for struggling airline
Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 21, 2013

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Prime Minister Perry Christie has denied that any deal has been made with the Chinese in relation to Bahamasair’s privatization, despite recent claims made by the executives of the Airport, Airline and Allied Workers Union (AAAWU).

To that question posed to by him by Guardian Business, Christie responded by simply saying, “That is not so”.

But as the government looks to reform Bahamasair, he believes that a public/private partnership would be the best solution going forward.

He also confirmed that Cabinet is expected to examine the airline to ensure it is able to give the country what it deserves, whether in terms of entering new markets or expanding its reach in existing markets.

“There will certainly be a new paradigm in moving forward with Bahamasair. I am turning my attention specifically to Bahamasair. Also, when it comes to promoting the country, we will look at the way in which the millions of dollars will be spent in order to maximize the return on investments,” Christie told reporters on the sidelines at the opening of the Lynden Pindling International Airport’s (LPIA) new Domestic Arrivals and Departures and International Departures Terminal last week Thursday.

It’s no secret that the national flag carrier continues to be a financial strain on the government, costing an estimated $25 million to operate on an annual basis. The airline has incurred more than $500 million in losses since its creation in 1973. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Finance mandated the airline to reduce its expenses by 25 percent in 2013 and 10 percent each year thereafter.

Last week, the airline’s Managing Director Henry Woods said he has received no indication of this but would support “a major reform” of the airline.

His comments came as reports began to circulate this week in the media that the privatization process has already begun, a claim being made by the unions representing the airline’s employees.

Woods maintains that labor costs are Bahamasair’s biggest burden. He said it’s an issue the airline has sought to address.

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