Insurance companies are being told they are driving taxi drivers and operators of public service vehicles (PSVs) out of business with the planned rise in insurance premiums.
Worse yet, one taxi driver warned, the number of uninsured vehicles on the island’s roads will likely increase.
President of the General Insurance Association of Barbados Michael Holder revealed on Friday that premiums for property and motor insurance could increase by between ten and 25 per cent effective January 1 next year due to the damage caused by the recent hurricanes. In fact, some companies are reportedly planning a rise of up to 30 per cent.
A taxi driver, who gave his name only as Andre, told Barbados TODAY the insurance companies were being unfair.
“That is a big jump and at the end of the day people gine be driving around illegally. That is not good. You have to look at the way that the consumers and those that putting the things in place can benefit from it. They will cause people to do crime and things all around hard,” Andre said.
The veteran taxi driver with 20 years experience complained that insurance rates were already high and, when added to the soaring prices that Barbadians have to pay for goods and services, there was no doubt many of them would not be able to afford such an increase.
“The way how things going in this country, everything going up except people’s pay. At the end of the day it’s like we being driven back into slavery. That’s all I’m saying. I am not seeing any hope for the people that working. People just work to make sure the insurance people and Government get money and the people can’t enjoy them money.
“I think it is unfair. It is hard on the average Barbadians working hard to send [their children to] school. I really think that people have to stand up to these things because it’s not right.”
Similar sentiments were shared by operator Cortez McCollin, who said taxi drivers simply could not bear any more burden.
“I feel very bad about this hike. When things happen like this in the economy it means that things aren’t going down, they are going up. We are trying to survive on a level but when things go up, we are suffering. We aren’t making a big income and still have to pay bills, and insurance rates going up. I don’t think it is right. It makes matters worse. I feel it is unfair for that to be happening,” McCollin said.
With the start of the tourist season quickly approaching, those taxi drivers, many of whom have complained of late that business has been slow, were looking forward to making a few dollars more.
However, Reuben Edwards told Barbados TODAY any hike in premiums will send many of them crashing out of business.
“Business right now is to the bottom. Over the last two or so years in Barbados taxing has been really down. For insurance to go up at this time I believe that they are going to put some people out of business completely.
“Anything that raise between ten and 25 per cent sound like madness to me. It is real disrespect to raise anything that high one time,” Edwards said.
President of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport Roy Raphael has also criticized the planned increase, arguing it would negatively impact the PSV sector.
Raphael said that news last week from the GIAB that premiums were at an all-time low had injected a degree of optimism within the PSV sector.
However, he said with owners and operators already losing out due to the number of potholes, the increase will reverse any gains they would have enjoyed.
“It will affect the PSV industry tremendously. There have been no changes where our income is concerned. We still realize that on some routes we were still seeing less passengers and then we have seen an increase in our maintenance costs as a result of potholes.
“We were very happy only last week to learn that the insurance companies were saying that we, the PSVs, were enjoying the lower premium, but now to hear that there is an increase from the first of January that generally concerns us.
“We would like to see a decrease. There have been no major accidents in PSVs, so there is nothing to justify that PSVs are part of the risk. But the insurance companies should be willing to meet with us before they increase the premium next year.”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Association of Private Transport Operators (APTO) Morris Lee said his association would adopt a “wait and see” approach.
“In the event that there is an increase it all ties back into what I have been saying all along. We are not in a position where we can pass on the cost of additional insurance to the customer because our bus fares stay at two dollars. Insurance premiums on PSVs are high, so if they get any higher, that can’t be good for the industry. We would be at disadvantage.”