Small taxi operators in Barbados are crying out to the Government to remove the cess on their petrol, even as they buckle under a series of challenges to an already declining business and revenue losses.
News of this state of affairs emerged today as Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, accompanied by some of her parliamentary colleagues, heard the concerns of taxi operators gathered on Lower Broad Street, The City, in another of her on-the-job Rubbing Shoulders exercises.
“It would be a good thing if we get the 15 per cent off (fee payable on each litre of petrol). That would help a lot,” said Gregory Rawlins of Grantley Select Tours.
“At the airport, we only getting one job per day, sometimes, some guys ain’t getting any at all; so we would like to see some changes in that,” added Rawlins.
Another member of the Grantley Select Tours, Hallam Watson, said operators were also upset about recent changes at the Grantley Adams International Airport, which have impacted negatively on their business.
“One of our main concerns is that since the second last week in May changes have been made to the airport, without consultation with the five different entities that we have at the airport,” Watson declared.
“Right now it move from I getting three jobs a day, to one a day. Now let me explain this to you. I work already this morning; I sleep on the line (taxi queue). When the work finish … I sleep on the line to get a job. Now I can’t get another job until 10 o’clock tonight,” he complained. The operator blamed the airport management for the problems created by the change. “We used to have two calls, now we only get one; so the other call that would have come to us was given to another board. That is really affecting us now,” stated Watson.
Saying he had nothing to take home from a recent $13 job, the taximan noted he was surviving on the last 25 years of savings.
“Most of my time is spent on the line so I could make a little living,” concluded Watson. Taxi driver, Ian Rowe, who had been in the business for the past 36 years, said sometimes he was forced to eat sno- cones for lunch. Row said business was so bad that he would be lucky if an extra job earned him a $100 for a whole day. He said that money was used to buy gas.
John Nelson, who had been driving taxis for 22 years, told reporters that petrol was their major worry.
“I live in the country and my weekly fuel bill is in excess of $200,” related Nelson. “Our major challenge is that we spend a lot of money trying to market Barbados as a tourist destination, but we are not able somehow to attract many first-time visitors. You have repeat visitors all the time that do virtually nothing,” he asserted.
Asked for his thoughts on a suggestion to increase fares, the taxi driver suggested that such a move could backfire. He believed
that while increased fares for operators may be a good idea, the measure would impact negatively on Barbadians, who he suggested were themselves reeling under the economic downturn, and would not be able to afford to use their services. (EJ)