Government is being put on notice that unless public service vehicle (PSV) operators get a meeting to discuss fuel concessions for their sector, the country could be hit by “some protest action”.
That warning from Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO) president Morris Lee, who told Barbados TODAY that his group had been seeking an audience with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, but had seemingly been ignored, and would do what they had to, to get noticed.
Lee said a letter sent off to Stuart several weeks ago had gone unanswered, and that the longer their concerns went unheard, the heavier financial losses they were suffering.
“Since March 16, a request for an emergency meeting was made to Government, and to date we have not received a written response, either confirming receipt of the correspondence or stating an interest to meet with us,” he reported.
“We’re looking to have a follow-up meeting with our members in another two to three weeks, and we need to get some response, because the operators are very keen on forming some kind of protest action after we meet.”
Lee was speaking in an interview with Barbados TODAY on the heels of an APTO emergency meeting yesterday evening, when PSV operators discussed the removal of the subsidy – which had been in place since June 1, 2008, and included a waiver of excise tax and a price offset of $7.90 per litre. Effective April 1, Government discontinued the six-year subsidy to the PSVs.
Additionally, the Transport Board can no longer be used as a fuelling facility for PSVs. It is for this reason that Lee wants the Freundel Stuart administration to give consideration to a proposal that the operators get fuel cost price from the Barbados National Oil Company (BNOC).
“Public service vehicle operators should be allowed to form an entity that can go to Barbados National Oil [Company] and purchase the fuel wholesale from BNOC, because when fuel is sold by BNOC, it goes through two phases of markup before it reaches your tank,” he said, noting that a check of the markup on the wholesale price of diesel and its retail price was almost equivalent to the concession which was stopped last month when PSVs were no longer allowed to fuel up at the Transport Board.
“So, if the Government is cash-strapped right now, and cannot afford to allow us to have the diesel duty-free, give us the opportunity to go to the BNOC and buy the product wholesale; that would be a trade-off. The Government would not lose anything,” Lee suggested.
Another matter the APTO president wants addressed is the value added tax (VAT). He said PSV operators were paying the levy at all levels of their operations and had therefore called on the powers that be to allow them to make claim for the money that was being spent.
“Tyres, fuel, parts, paints, accessories . . . . We are not allowed to claim back that value added tax from the Government. That speaks to unfair competition,” Lee argued.