Some financial ease may be on the way for the privately owned public service vehicle (PSV) sector.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley said today he had heard their cry for duty-free concessions and increased bus fares to help cope with the burdensome National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and was feverishly working to come up with an answer.
Lashley, who was speaking to Barbados TODAY this afternoon on the fringes of the 10th anniversary parade and awards ceremony of the Barbados Prison Service at Dodds, St Philip, said he recently met with the PSV operators who presented their case to him, and he intended to take the issue to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler and Cabinet shortly.
“Whatever we can do at the ministry we will try to assist because they are very important to the public transport system. We are currently looking at their duty-free proposal. Once we look at it, fashion it out and look at the conditions to get duty-free, particularly in the PSV sector, and once that is acceptable to the Ministry of Finance and Cabinet, then we will go,” Lashley said, adding that he would discuss the matter further with the operators.
PSV owners and operators have long pleaded with Government for duty-free concessions to replace an aging fleet.
Back in August, Morris Lee, the interim chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), told Barbados TODAY that the NSRL had cut their net earnings by 50 per cent.
Lee said then that prior to the increase in the tax, which jumped from two per cent to ten per cent on July 1, the owners took in a net return of 13 cents on every $2 fare.
However, with the increase in the levy, the net returns had been halved, falling to under seven cents.
This was one of the issues that the owners and operators had raised at a meeting in mid-August with Sinckler, at which they again requested a fare hike and duty-free concessions on imported spare parts.
Following the talks Chairman of the Alliance of Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael had told Barbados TODAY that Sinckler had requested a detailed proposal for discussion at a future meeting involving the owners and operators, Lashley and the Minister of Finance.
While the two transport executives seemed hopeful, one senior official who attended the talks had seemed unhappy with the outcome, while expressing doubt that the proposal “will not even leave the Minister of Transport’s desk before election”.
Lashley today said he had received a document for the PSV owners and operators last week and it had contained a proposal for increased bus fares, which he said would also be considered.
Only three days ago, Lee said PSVs could not hold Government to ransom for increased fares, if it were to implement his plan for a successful public transport system.
Lee said Government did not have to own buses in order for the country to have a successful public transport system, insisting that Government only needed to put the appropriate systems in place to properly regulate the PSV sector to ensure average working class Barbadians get an affordable, efficient, cost-effective service that caters for the most vulnerable in society.
That model and the building of two multi-purpose terminals, he suggested, would save Government about US$20 million annually and generate millions of dollars in economic activity.