Guyana – Suriname open-air agreement to expand connectivity

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By Ray Chickrie

GUYANA/SURINAME— Guyana and Suriname continues to fast-track cooperation in aviation and transportation at the presidential level between president Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali and president Chan Santokhi. On Monday, the two South American countries signed an “Open Air Agreement” that ended routes, pricing and capacity restrictions between the two neighbouring countries.

Work on an open-air agreement started a few weeks ago when a presidential delegation from Guyana visited Suriname for the 45 independence anniversary of that country.

On December 7, 2020, a Surinamese delegation arrived in Guyana to sign the agreement. Albert Jubithana, minister of transport, communication and tourism signed the agreement on behalf of Suriname. Public works minister, Bishop Juan Edghill signed on behalf of Guyana.

This agreement brings Guyana and Suriname closer to attract investments in aviation and tourism from legacy carriers like Emirates, Qatar, Turkish and investors from the Middle East.

“The agreement will improve production and economic growth between the two countries. Moreover, it will connect communities, create economic growth and contribute to sustainable development,” minister Jubithana said.

The Suriname minister of transport said: “Without connectivity, there is no productivity”. Against this backdrop, he pointed out that the framework has been set for productivity.

The agreement ends restrictions on aircraft types, capacity, frequency, and pricing on passenger and cargo services.  Emirates and Qatar want to open a cargo service to these countries, and Surinam Airways (SLM) is looking to expand its cargo service.

Minister Edghill during brief remarks said the day was “fitting” for the occasion. “This agreement is truly a historical agreement and it is an unimpeded move to ensure that there is collaboration between both countries,” he reiterated “government is moving aggressively to improve land and air transportation between Guyana and Suriname and to the wider world.

“In this Open Skies Agreement, we have agreed to remove all restrictions on Market Access, capacity and pricing to create for a more open market and to give route rights to our respective airlines,” Minister Edghill added.

Travellers in and out of Guyana and Suriname have faced tremendous obstacles purchasing a seamless single-ticket to far destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Suriname has a lot to gain from this agreement since it has a national airline and Guyana doesn’t. SLM wants to expand its Guyana hub to include New York, Amsterdam, northern Brazil, and the Dutch Caribbean. This agreement could very well be a turning point for state-owned, SLM’s survival.

Egbert Field, director general, Guyana Civil Aviation Authority said that both sides realized the urgent need to cooperate. He said, “aviation knows no boundary. This industry is an instrument of development for both countries and the political will was translated into reality.”

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