A few weeks ago, Barbados TODAY caught the ire of some members of the unabashedly vocal ‘Mottley crew’ on social media after publishing details of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study which recommended that domestic bus fares be hiked from $2 to $5.
That study was commissioned by no less an individual than the former Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler last October, but only came to light the very week that the Mia Mottley-led administration sat down for formal talks with a team from the Washington-based lending institution on a balance of payments support programme.
Mere coincidence or not? We may never know.
However, as soon as we were able to confirm the authenticity of the document, this newspaper immediately sought to share the details – as it always does – with our readers.
But of course there were the usual naysayers, who sought to ascribe all manner of evil intent to the publication by us of the IMF recommendation.
Leading the Facebook chatteratti on this occasion was Lisa Cummins, a former independent turned rabid Barbados Labour Party spokeswoman, who was recently rewarded for her social media rantings with a senatorial appointment.
She wrote: “I find that news company highly mischievous . I really don’t know what motivates them but you can see a very sinister agenda behind everything they do. That report was a December 2017 Report which was prepared from October. It is not the latest IMF Report and it does not reflect the state of current discussions or agreed measures with the Govt after the meetings this week.
“But instead of putting the Report in context and advising the public that the Govt would now have to navigate what the current state of play would be and what measures are being negotiated with the IMF as we can expect in the Mini budget on Monday – they release this in the public to create havoc among a people who are notorious for not checking dates. Anyone hearing of all these IMF meetings last week woukd [sic] immediately, if they don’t look at the dates, assume this was from the meetings last week and begin to freak out. That was their intention,” she said.
“I have lost my regard for the work they do up there. There are some people who are malicious in their intent and any interview or press conference is carried by this media house- even when it’s later discredited. There are certain stories you will see nowhere else but in that media house and they could take rhe [sic] most benign thing and turn it into innuendo as long as it is about one person who they are committed to attacking. It has always been that way and with the absence of certain destructive voices from the landscape they have now filled the gap . . . . They have a nasty agenda that takes away from any credibility they otherwise should have,” Cummins added.
Thankfully, Kristal Kirton read the article from start to finish before commenting so she was able to clarify that “if you read the article you will see that was a recommendation from last year under the old administration. They [the Democratic Labour Party] just didn’t tell us what was going on. So I guess Barbados TODAY now exposing [the] DEMS,” Kirton added.
However, this would not stop the ill informed commentary, including surprisingly from June Fowler of CLICO fame, who proceeded to compare Barbados TODAY to “FOX news” out of the United States.
“I saw the behaviour of the paper for sometime now and realised that it was like the Advocate,” she added in support of Cummins’ off the mark intervention.
Pity, neither woman would have expressed such a position when previously they had solicited Barbados TODAY’s support in advancing their agendas, but evidently that was outside of silly season, which somehow seems to be dragging on and on despite the unequivocal mandate issued by the people of Barbados to the BLP on May 24.
With that said, we can’t help but raise the issue of the IMF report again, given the current discussion that is taking place about the need for a hike in bus fares.
And not because of any alleged scaremongering on the part of any media house either, but rather the genuine concerns of players in the public transportation sector about their ability to cope with recent tax increases announced by Prime Minister Mottley in her June 11 budgetary presentation.
We note for instance that route taxi operators are projecting that their costs will increase nearly threefold from from $2,250 annually for road tax and permits, to an estimated $6,741.60 when the just announced fuel tax and annual registration fee are factored into the equation.
This compares to a move from $3,625 to $10,861 in annual costs for minibuses, according to the two associations which represent the private public service vehicle operators.
To cope with the pending increases which are due to take effect in a matter of days, both the Association of Public Transport Operators and the Alliance Owners of Public Transport are currently lobbying Government for at least a $3 bus fare.
In a joint statement issued at the weekend, they however made it clear that the suggested fare – which was submitted on September 21, 2017, was still well below the accepted cost of providing the service and that it “may have to be reviewed in the circumstances imposed by the recent Budget”.
With that said, any suggestion of a $5 bus fare could only be deemed prophetic – and not mischievous – at this stage. But can our Government afford to accept the IMF’s bitter medicine? Time will tell.