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Nicholas retorts: Minister playing politics with CAL
Former Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) chairman George Nicholas has accused Finance Minister Winston Dookeran of playing politics and not coming clean on what led to unaudited losses of $339.5 million at the cash-strapped airline. Defending his tenure as chairman, Nicholas claimed it was “unfair” that Dookeran failed to reveal what contributed to the loss.
Nicholas said his announcement in the middle of 2011 that CAL was expected to close the year with a $200 million profit was based on the figures that management presented showing a US$18 million profit. Nicholas however explained: “In November 2011 the fuel subsidy was reduced without consultation by the minister and the price CAL had to pay was retroactively increased as from January 2011.
The increase, which was an attempt to play politics with the livelihood of all those who work so hard for CAL was an increase of 50 per cent to $2.34.”
The former chairman said both passengers and freight would have paid for flights throughout 2011 on the basis of tickets calculated at the former fuel price. “CAL would not be able to make up the loss that this would generate and that wiped out the prospective profit and caused an unanticipated loss. Had we known the fuel price, the cost of fares would have been different,” Nicholas said.
Noting that the fuel price has been reduced to $1.50 for 2012, Nicholas claimed the finance ministry did not “fully” pay the subsidy at either the old or new rate during the period. He added: “CAL was constantly having to go with its begging bowl seeking the money that it was entitled to receive. Even at the new rate there was a constant begging for the ministry to be timely with the subsidy payments.
The amounts owed by the ministry last year were significantly higher than recited on (Friday) and included several previous years for which the minister might wish to account.”
When approached at a hamper distribution ceremony in Tunapuna yesterday, Dookeran said he was not offering any comment on the claims levelled by Nicholas.
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