India's airlines' likely losses $ 1.5 billion in 2008: IATA

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New Delhi, Sep 24 (UNI) In a stinging criticism of ''India's slow decision making'', International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General Giovani Bisignani today said the Indian carriers could post 1.5 billion dollars in losses in 2008 unless the Government reduced jet fuel prices, improved airport infrastructure, adopted global standards and set up a regulatory authority.

''Aviation is a fast-changing industry that is fueling much of the Indian economic success story. But the crisis is highlighting that India's decision making is too slow,'' Mr Bisignani told reporters after the CII-organised interactive session.

He said the global crisis resulting from high oil prices and declining traffic was hitting India hard, with growth slowing down from 33 per cent in 2007 to 7.5 per cent in the first six months of the current year and going negative in the last two months.

''Indian carriers could post 1.5 billion dollars in losses in 2008, the largest outside the US.... It's a wake-up call for the Finance Minister,'' he said.

''Urgent action is needed to help Indian carriers weather the perfect storm of high costs and falling demand,'' he added.

Among the steps he suggested included implementing a standard four per cent sales tax on ATF by the States, putting up an effective Airport Economic Regulatory Authority, setting up a new airport in Mumbai to handle 100 million passengers a year.

He also asked India to join IATA'a efforts to reduce emissions by optimising routes, improving procedures and using best practice in fuel management.

Lamenting that India was among the most expensive places on the planet to buy jet fuel, he said costly ATF, high excise duty, steep user development charges by airport operators, and sales taxes of up to 30 per cent charged by States resulted in a cost structure that cannot support a competitive industry.

''Removing excise tax, implementing a standard 4 per cent sales tax on domestic fuel and greater transparency in overall policy are urgently needed,'' he said.

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