Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley, has no power to determine whether public service vehicles (PSVs) can raise bus fares or be allowed duty-free concessions.
So says interim Chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee, who has suggested that only the Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler, can authorize such requests.
Following a five-hour meeting with private PSV operators last Friday, Lashley turned down their requests for an increase in bus fares, as well as for duty-free concessions.
However, in an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, Lee insisted that it was outside of his jurisdiction to make a ruling on such matters.
“The Minister of Transport is in no position to make a statement on bus fares or duty-free concessions because he is not the Minister of Finance and at the time that he was making those comments, he was not in the position of acting as Minister of Finance,” Lee said.
“Therefore, issues like bus fares and duty-free concessions fall far out of the reach of the Minister of Transport. So what we have come away with is perhaps the Minister’s personal position or the Minister’s position if he was asked to vote if Cabinet was making a decision on the issue,” Lee pointed out.
“If you want to find out what is Government’s position on bus fares and duty-free concessions, Chris Sinckler is the person to ask for that, not Michael Lashley. It is not his job.”
He even went so far as to suggest that the article which appeared on the front page of a local newspaper “be withdrawn.”
The APTO chairman revealed that following an unsuccessful appeal to Sinckler some time ago to implement those changes, they would be making another attempt to convince him to do so.
He said the major difference now was that PSV’s were no longer entitled to duty-free diesel.
“We approached him [Sinckler] already. We didn’t get it then, but we are going to go back to him to get him to review it,” Lee insisted.
“Remember, one of the reasons why we didn’t get duty-free when we asked Sinckler, was because we were getting the diesel duty-free at the Transport Board. They stopped that, so the price gone back up in the air, but the Transport Board is still getting it I am told.
“So here it is that Transport Board is getting duty-free buses and duty-free diesel and a subsidy from Government. Yet we working for $2 and we can’t get nothing. So tell me how level the pasture is?” he asked.
To make matters worse, Lee said, was the fact that among the businesses which owned buses including the state-owned Transport Board, tour companies, ZM’s and limousines, PSV’s were the only group not granted duty-free concessions.
“Minibus and ZR’s are the only category that don’t get duty-free,” he argued.
Lee contended that the discussion on whether or not they should be granted these requests ought to be properly analyzed and debated properly.
He said while Simpson Motors was currently selling a minibus for close to $250,000, a duty-free bus could be imported into the island for less than $80,000.