It is time we address the issue of intra-regional travel once and for all.
Geographically, T&T’s closest Caribbean neighbour is Grenada.
The distance between the Maurice Bishop International Airport in Grenada and the Piarco International Airport in T&T is said to be just over 160 kilometres, with a flight from one to the other lasting just around 40 minutes.
So, it would be understandable if you believed that travel between the two countries would be easy enough.
However, despite their closeness in proximity, travelling between T&T and Grenada is unnecessarily difficult. Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell raised the issue as he delivered the feature address at the T&T Manufacturers’ Association’s President’s Dinner and Awards at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday night.
In fact, Mr Mitchell admitted he was only able to make the trip because he could commandeer the aircraft used by the Regional Security System to fly in and out of T&T. He noted that the other option, which would be what the average traveller would have to utilise, would have required him to spend an entire week here and go through Miami.
But this difficulty is not only limited to travel between T&T and Grenada, it is a problem that has been plaguing the Caribbean region as a whole for some time.
And it is one that must be tackled head-on, as prime ministerial privilege is not a privilege afforded to all.
“If I am seeing that much trouble, imagine what the citizens of the region have to go through, so while COVID-19 obviously posed significant challenges within 2022 and 2023, we need to collectively stop making excuses and start taking action and putting the resources where they are required,” PM Mitchell said of addressing the regional travel conundrum.
We agree with Mr Mitchell that we need to stop making excuses.
Sadly, this call from the Grenadian leader is nothing new.
In fact, in February 2019, Dr Keith Rowley signed T&T on to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Multilateral Air Services Agreement, which was intended to boost regional transportation.
The agreement allowed for no restriction on routes, capacity or traffic rights and the facilitation of increased intra-regional travel and provision of more cargo options for exporters and importers, with resulting cost savings.
When fully implemented, it was intended to provide a major boost to the regional transportation sector, which is a critical aspect of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). Unfortunately, it has not been fully implemented as yet.
In July, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said Caricom leaders had agreed on a new modern multilateral air services agreement.