Minibus and ZR owners say they have no intention of walking out empty-handed from a yet to be finalized meeting with Prime Minister Mia Mottley at which they expect to discuss the newly introduced fuel tax.
However, the public service vehicle (PSV) owners and operators remain optimistic that something will come out of the talks.
Communications Officer of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Mark Haynes said while he would make no predictions, an ideal outcome would be an agreement by Mottley to provide duty-free concessions on the importation of new vehicles to replace an aging fleet.
“We have pushed several issues such as an increase in bus fare, but the thing we would really like to get would be the duty-free concessions on vehicles because that is really going to be the most [critical]. Most of our vehicles on the road are aging and if we get assistance with that it would help us offset some of the additional cost that we must not take on with these measures,” Haynes told Barbados TODAY.
Reminded that the Barbados Labour Party had promised duty-free concessions on electric vehicles during its campaign for the May 24 general election, Haynes said while this was a good start it would not bring immediate relief.
“We appreciate that offer and we hope that becomes a reality soon. However, heavy load carrying versions of these green vehicles are only now coming on stream and we now have to invest in expertise and technology to deal with these vehicles. So in the meantime, we are going to need vehicles that use fossil fuels to help the sector [alive] because if on top of the increased fuel tax operators have to incur heavy maintenance costs for old vehicles, many are going to go out of business,” he stressed.
Soon after Mottley announced in her June 11 austerity Budget that a tax of 40 cents per litre on diesel and gasoline and five cents per litre on kerosene would replace the road tax, the PSV owners complained the new levy would have a devastating impact on their business.
In a joint statement, the AOPT and the Association of Public Transport Operators said the petrol tax would raise expenditure for route taxis to $6,741 from $2,250, while minibus operators would have to fork out $10,861, up from $3,625.
They also complained that they had not been consulted on the matter, and expressed a desire to have talks with the Prime Minister, as well as Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid, before July 1.
While the proposed date came and went without any indications that she would meet with the private sector transport owners, Mottley promised last Sunday during a live nationally televised interview that she would meet with industry stakeholders, while acknowledging awareness of the complaints about the fuel tax, which is expected to raise $80 million annually.
Haynes said today the minibus and ZR owners were pleased that they would have an opportunity to make their case to the country’s leader.
“We believe that we would have a very cordial meeting with her. She is apprised of our concerns and while we don’t know the outcome of the meeting, we are eagerly looking forward to meeting with her when that meeting is formerly arranged,” Haynes said.