Owners of privately-run public service vehicles (PSVs) will meet next week to chart the way forward for the sector, which has been asking the Freundel Stuart administration for duty-free concessions on imported parts, and an increase in bus fares to keep them in business.
PSV operators, who have also been accused of consuming alcoholic beverages while on duty, playing loud and vulgar music, insulting passengers who complain and engaging in other lawless behaviour, will also be updated during the meeting on recent proposals submitted to Government regarding their future.
“We are inviting all the owners to be there. What we are going to be doing is updating them on what was done in the last few months in terms of making some proposals that were made to Government, and of course, we will be inviting them to join in the discussion, giving us their feedback and chart the way forward,” said Ingrid King, spokesperson for the Joint Committee of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) and the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO).
The details of the proposal to be discussed at Monday’s meeting at the Barbados Community College were not immediately clear.
However, the joint committee representing PSV owners and operators had written to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in June last year demanding duty-free concessions and no less than a 50 per cent fare rise, which would the fees passengers pay from $2.00 to $3.00.
It was their response to the austere budgetary measures announced by Sinckler on May 30, 2017, which included increases of 24 cents and 25 cents per litre in the excise duty on diesel and gasoline, as well as the introduction of a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions and a steep jump in the National Social Responsibility Levy from two per cent to ten per cent of the customs duty on imported and locally produced goods.
APTO President Morris Lee had told Barbados TODAY at the time that the operators simply could not afford to absorb the additional costs, and were worried about the future of the sector after Sinckler delivered the 2017 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.
“We have been really concerned about the state of the industry from a financial perspective, and after what we heard in this year’s Budget presentation we are even more concerned. The industry is about to be hit with some challenges given the proposed hike in the cost of doing business,” Lee said then.
The PSV owners met with the minister in August 2017, following which AOPT Chairman Roy Raphael said a detailed proposal would be prepared with the help of experts, to be sent to the minister.
He also said that following public concerns about the conduct of PSV operators, the organization had assured Sinckler that there were two model routes – Sugar Hill and Howells & Ivy – where the operators adhere to the rules, including the wearing the uniforms and keeping law and order.
“What we promised [Sinckler] is that . . . we are going to meet with our owners soon and remind them of some of the issues,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY at the time.
The umbrella organization of PSV owners had also announced late last month that it would keep a close eye on drivers by introducing a command centre from which the vehicles, as well as drivers’ behaviour, would be monitored via global positioning system (GPS) navigational facilities and a rapid response system.
“Next year God willing we are going to be opening our own command centre. The command centre will have two components. The first component will be the monitoring of all PSVs via a GPS system . . . and the public will get an opportunity to see where the next bus will be. And then the second phase of the command centre will see a patrol unit where inspectors will be patrolling and actually responding to reports out there, particularly from complaints from the command centre,” Raphael had explained.