A major spoke has been placed in the wheel of car rental companies here that has the potential to put the brakes on some operations.
Hired car companies are complaining that the Barbados Licensing Authority has begun to limit the number of visitor permit books the companies are allowed to purchase.
They said this had become virtually a yearly occurrence, likely to get even worse with the pending general election, which would be the preoccupation of the Government printery.
Some businesses and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party have argued that the highly anticipated general election, constitutionally due in just over a month, had been the cause of delays and uncertainty.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has already indicated he is going down to the wire.
Noted car rental operator and owner of Chelsea Motors Richard Cummins told Barbados TODAY he recently attempted to purchase four books, but was told he could only get one.
With one book costing $250, Cummins said not only was Government turning down much needed funds, but it was also putting the island’s tourism industry in peril.
“It is currently a disaster, and I am not saying this to be an A, B or D, but we went to buy four books which is putting money in their pockets and they could only let you have one. It is not like they are doing me a favour, I am paying for them,” Cummins complained.
He said he was at a loss as to why the Ministry of Transport and Works was unable to satisfy the demand for the permit books, while it displayed no sense of urgency.
“There is no sort of urgency at all. It is what I would call a total display of ignorance . . . . Why should they care if I want to buy ten books? It is money in their pocket. There is no rationalizing them. Right now we went to buy books and we could only get one,” he repeated.
Like other car rental companies, the industry veteran said he feared he would run out of books, costing him thousands of dollars in losses.
“What would you do if you have ten motor cars there to rent at $800 or $900 each per week and people lining up there want them and you cannot rent them? It is $8,000 or $9,000 for the week that you cannot get, so you just say, ‘cool, it is not a problem, let me put on my bathing suit and go to the beach instead, I don’t need that money’. That is their attitude. Nobody cares,” he said.
Operations Manager of Drive-A-Matic Denis Mahon told Barbados TODAY he was fearful his company could run out by this weekend.
“This means that after that . . . visitors to Barbados who don’t hold a valid Barbados driver’s licence will have a problem in terms of not being able to drive,” he said, while pointing out that historically, once a general election was approaching “you get this challenge of trying to get permit books”.
“As it stands now they are saying that they don’t have,” he said, while agreeing that there seemed to be a bit of rationing of the permit books.
The businessman called on the authorities to say when next the books would be available so the hired car companies could get some answers.
“Given the fact that car rental companies are running out and some people are already out, what systems are they putting in place to accommodate people visiting the island? Are they going to waive it where persons [don’t need] to have a driver’s permit because of a lack of availability, or are they going to enforce it? But how can you enforce something that is not available?
“If they are not going to be available very soon, I would say by the end of this week, then what systems the authority and Government is putting in place to accommodate people visiting the island who wish to drive? Then what happens should car rental companies then not rent vehicles? Should we close up shop and send home staff because we can’t rent because there are no drivers permits available to give to people? Those are the questions that need to be [answered],” Mahon said.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley is yet to publicly respond to these concerns.
However, the Barbados Licensing Authority, from which the rental car companies buy the books, is required to request the permit books from the Government printery.
Barbados TODAY understands that some companies can issue as many as 100 permits – the equivalent of four books – to visitors on any given weekend.
The number of books each company buys would depend on trends over the years and the anticipated level of business.Visitors who do not hold a valid Barbados driver’s licence require a driver’s permit in order to drive here.
One car rental owner who did not wish to be identified told Barbados TODAY the current situation could put the brakes on his operation if not sorted out as soon as possible since he too, was running out of books.
“It definitely will pose a challenge for a car rental company and visitors coming to the island seeking to get a driver’s permit. If not addressed right away, what are we going to do when we are now running low on permits to issue? I think there will be no choice but to halt the operation because we can’t issue what we don’t have,” he reasoned.
A driver’s permit becomes active from the time of purchase, and it is valid for up to two months. [email protected]