A petition for better intra-regional Caribbean Air Transport
By Kareem Yarde
While the air transport industry is complex, the challenges in the region are not insurmountable; many of the solutions are there to be implemented. Unfortunately however, often times the political will does not ensue. In this light, a regional petition has commenced to amplify the voice of, and demand by Caribbean citizens for improvements to the regional transport system.
Firstly, it must be noted that this petition is not intended to offend or to chastise those who have contributed arduously to the industry throughout the region. One is aware that we have had our successes in regional air transport. For example, we have managed to maintain a very safe air transport industry throughout the region and we have managed to maintain access to all member states.
Rather, this petition is intended to make genuine contributions to our regional air transport industry, to intra- regional tourism, to our regional development, and to our attempts at regional unity.
It is a fact that it is often more affordable for Caribbean people to travel outside of the region than within. So that while we seek to unite as a region by forming organisations like CARICOM (the Caribbean Community), the region is left with citizens in an integration movement who can’t even visit each other affordably and efficiently.
How then can this region expect to integrate if the citizens are unable to immerse themselves in each other’s cultures? It is only at the level of every Caribbean citizen that genuine attempts at integration can be made and for this to occur we need more efficient and more affordable intra- regional transportation.
Moreover, opportunities for further growth in various tourism sectors across the region are being squandered because of the inefficiencies and high prices. Whereas other economic blocks have developed strong transport sectors to support growth in trade and tourism throughout the grouping, the Caribbean has not been as successful in this regard.
As a result, friendships throughout the region have deteriorated, families remain separated, citizens are yet again isolated, events and festivals are under-subscribed by Caribbean neighbors, and regional cultures are less familiar than those of countries thousands of miles away.
At some point it has got to stop, and so there are questions which need to be answered in order for the region to generate greater efficiency in the air transport system such as:
1.) Either we take the route of genuine and fair intra-regional subsidization if we do not have enough faith in the size of the market or we allow specific subsidization, efficiency and competition to take root, but how can we justly bash the carriers for being unprofitable and at the same time beseech them to provide unfettered social services and be pillars of national economies?
However, all hope is not lost as there are a number of proposed solutions to the issues of inefficiency and high air fares being faced such as but not limited to:
1.) Route specific subsidisation schemes;
2.) Security programs to eliminate secondary security screening;
3.) Reductions in travel related taxes and charges;
4.) Fostering functional cooperation among the existing regional private and publicly funded carriers.
As mentioned initially, potential solutions exist to be implemented or further examined, unfortunately, however little action ensues often times as a result of inadequate political will throughout the region. The focus of this petition is therefore to bring to the forefront the potential for achieving the following through greater efficiency and affordability in intra-regional travel:
1.) Tourism growth;
2.) Improved intra-regional cultural linkages; and
3.) Increased intra-regional trade
If the region can stand united and declare that we want these issues resolved, our political class will have no choice but to accede to our request. Like Mahatma Ghandi reminds us, we must “be the change [we] want to see”; if not, how can we be repulsed by political inaction if we ourselves are not willing to act. For those who are dreary as a result of arduous efforts and little movement- for the sake of our region, for the sake of our future- the annals of history shall never forsake your resolute commitments.
Therefore, please help us to get this petition heard by adding your name and sharing so the region’s stance on this issue can bring pressure to bear and drive political action. The petition can be found at: http://chn.ge/29Lev6s
Kareem Yarde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org