BVI News

National airline coming? Gov’t accused of conspiracy

Devon Osborne (left) and Julian Fraser. PHOTO CREDIT:

The National Democratic Party government, which is headed by Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, is being accused of possibly conspiring with the privately owned BVI Airways to pull off a massive hoax in order to simply start a national airline.

That suggestion has come from Opposition lawmaker Julian Fraser, as well as Devon Osborne who is a public backer of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party.

The conspiracy theory is emerging at a time when the NDP government and BVI Airways are locked in a public dispute linked to a deal both parties had signed. The government had given the airline $7 million to start operating direct flights between the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Miami in the United States.

But the airline is now maintaining that it cannot start providing the service because it is short of money. It also blamed the government for the costly delays it suffered in getting the necessary regulatory approvals, adding that such delays depleted its resources.

Fraser, in a post on his Facebook page yesterday, suggested that the public display by the government and BVI Airways is possibly a sham.

He stated that, ultimately, the NDP government’s intention was to start a national airline, but the plot has started to unravel earlier than anticipated.

“Remember Cayman [Islands] with its national airline? Well here’s the NDP’s chance to get one. They can have it without the public debate having to justify its feasibility, affordability, or national benefit. This is the NDP grand plan,” Fraser said.

He added that the Avro RJ 100 type of planes that BVI Airways recently acquired helps to prove his point.

“It is not an efficient aircraft by any stretch, with its four engines. But that’s all we are capable of with our current [airport] runway… On the issue of efficiency, well it is their hope that, before too long, the runway will be extended and a different aircraft type introduced to solve that problem. Plausible indeed.”

“Efficiency here is the key. My point is, no investor, especially private, can sustain an operation like BVI Airways in its current form. The NDP administration fully anticipates – and probably with the knowledge of the airline executives – that the airline will collapse under these circumstances,” Fraser further theorized.

To further build his theory, he alluded to a Cayman Islands scenario.

“In fiscal year 2016-2017 the Cayman government has given its national airline $24.7 million, which is a reduction from the year before. And yet an additional $7.7 million to help pay off its debt. I’m making a point here, which is, in the scheme of things, $7.2 million on the part of the NDP to own their own National Airline is not a big deal. So much for the motives of this NDP administration and its methods for now. There are pros and cons about having a national carrier…” Fraser further reasoned.

Premier Smith

In the meantime, Premier Smith this month raised the issue of a national airline, but he did not develop his point clearly. This is what he said: “There is a reason our competitors in the region do not operate air services under their own national name. There is no Air Barbados, or Air Turks and Caicos. But those destinations have the good fortune right now of having regular, direct air service from the US, and so they are relieved of that burden. We are not so fortunate…”

In the meantime, Osborne, who is a supporter of the Opposition party, yesterday added his voice to the discussion Fraser had started on Facebook.

He accused the current government of taking the BVI people for a ride. “What I will tell you on this one is that I see it as a ‘conspiracy theory’. The people of the British Virgin Islands are tired of being taken for a ride to nowhere with this business venture,” Osborne said.

He further claimed that one of the major issues is that Premier Smith is not a visionary, and not a man who always lives up to the principle of transparency.

“The premier, to this very day, has not convinced me that he is a man of vision – but more a man of false promises and illusions. [He is] a man who does not believe in his people, and would rather give a chance to a non-belonger than his own. [He is] a man who has kept the people of the BVI in the dark for six plus years with millions spent and no transparency nor accountability to show for it. Are we playing cat and mouse here? We don’t have to set no rat trap to own an airline,” added Osborne.

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