The vexing National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), along with increases in petrol prices, is hitting taxi operators in Bridgetown where it hurts most – in their pockets.
Several taxi drivers spoke to Barbados TODAY this week on condition that their given names not be used. They described a tale of woe stemming from the steep hike in the NSRL from two per cent to ten per cent and increases in the excise duty on petrol.
They said they had already been struggling, and their ability to make a living took a further hit with the Government-imposed taxes and levies, which took effect on July 1.
“The recent increase of taxes affects public service vehicle operators because the cost and standard of living has increased and not our fare rates,” lamented one taxi driver who gave his name as Jack.
To emphasize the difficulty they were having in attracting business, one driver explained he had been on the job since 8 a.m. and had not had a single fare six hours later.
Several of them said they had similar experiences.
“There are many days you come out here and go home without a job,” one taxi man known as Mike told Barbados TODAY.
“This happens daily. The only time we can get a little relief is when there is a cruise ship,” added another, who preferred to be called Goose.
The drivers said the high number of vehicles operating from the Bridgetown stand contributed in part to their difficulty in attracting work.
However, they left no doubt about the impact of the taxes.
“The Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley is issuing too many licences to PSV operators and inflating the system. The new [operators] want their money that they paid for the vehicles right now, resulting in overcharges.
“We are getting [fewer] sales because of the recent Budget, as fewer people are wanting a taxi,” Mike said.
The operators also said the NSRL had done more than just affect their normal fares.
One driver who wanted to be referred to as Tall Man said he had begun to seek financing to replace his aging car before Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced the measures.
He told Barbados TODAY the cost of the vehicle climbed by $16,000 after the Budget measures took effect, throwing the proverbial spanner in the works.
“I was going to buy a hybrid. Before the Budget, the car was [quoted] at $98,000, and after the Budget the finance company along with the agents said that the cost on my car would rise with the [NSRL] increase, as much as $16,000 or more. I normally use $16,000 to license and road tax my vehicle,” he lamented.
Operators are allowed by law to purchase a taxi duty-free every five years. However, the taxi drivers are crying foul over the requirement that they must purchase a replacement vehicle before they are allowed to sell the one in use.
It was a concern shared by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley who had been meeting with the taxi drivers.
“How many small men do you and I know that can afford to go and pick up money to purchase a new car, even if it is duty free? All through the years, people sold the taxi that they have to get the money to buy the new one,” she said.
Despite the additional burdens brought on by the new budgetary measures, the operators who spoke to Barbados TODAY said they were not planning to raise fares because they are aware it was tough for everyone.