Less than a year after resuming office, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Kenny Anthony handed mini-bus drivers EC$2 million from the government’s empty coffers, by their own account.From all reports, too, the handsome bonus was to ward off any ideas of agitation by bus drivers for an increase in bus fares.
Obviously the prime minister had other increases in mind, not to mention the implementation of VAT, introduced here last October at a rate of fifteen percent. Never mind the peace offering, the money did little to quell mini-bus operators’ appetite. If anything, it created more bad blood within various mini-bus associations and operators that wanted their share of the pie handed to them directly and not as part of any investment proposed by the national minibus association.
True to their word, that come 2013 they would be seeking a fare increase, various associations put their respective proposals before government in earnest earlier this year. The government then put together a commission headed by former House Speaker Matthew Roberts to review the proposals and to engage the public on the matter at town hall meetings. The process was to be completed by April and the Ministry of Transport is now in the process of making submissions to Cabinet. On Friday the STAR spoke with Lenita Joseph, Chief transport officer in the ministry who shed enlightenment on the whole process.
“The Cabinet set up a committee of persons who were engaged in the business of accepting proposals from the bus operators,”she said. “The bus route operators submitted proposals and the committee then sat down to review them.”
She added: “There were a number of methodologies employed, one of which was to actually go out on site to review the working conditions of the bus operators.We had consultations with the operators themselves, to justify some of the fares they were proposing. We also had financial analyses done. Some of the factors taken into consideration included cost of tires, brakes, insurance and the cost of fuel.
With all of the facts in hand the chief transport officer says the next step will be to input all the figures and data to determine whether the request from bus operators is justifiable.
“In addition, we are ensuring there is not a significant jump in bus fares,” Joseph promised. “The bus drivers may believe they are entitled to a dollar increase, but it may not necessarily be the most appropriate thing at this time. So we have to make sure we maintain a balance and that there is some equity in how those fares are increased.”