Owners of private public service vehicles (PSV) say they are optimistic about getting some kind of relief from Government, following a meeting today with Prime Minister Mia Mottley which discussed concerns surrounding the introduction of a new fuel tax on July 1.
The new levy, which is to raise $80 million annually, replaces the traditional road tax.
PSV owners say it is already having a devastating impact on their businesses with expenditure for route taxis increasing to $6,741 from $2,250, while minibus operators are forced to fork out $10,861, up from $3,625.
Immediately following Mottley’s announcement in her June 11 mini Budget, they had also complained that they were not consulted on the tax, which has been implemented at a rate of 40 cents per litre on diesel and gasoline, and five cents per litre on kerosene.
However, at the end of this afternoon’s talks, President of the Association of Public Transport Operators Morris Lee told reporters gathered outside Government Headquarters that they were optimistic that their cries would be heard.
“We had a very productive meeting. Essentially the Government recognizes the significance of transport to Barbados and the contribution it has made over the years. We have agreed to come together on this because we understand that it would take more than one meeting. We have been given a blank sheet on which to draw on in terms of what we want to bring to reality,” Lee said.
The operators have been demanding an increase in bus fares from $2, as well as duty free concessions on new vehicles with Lee expressing confidence today that a solution could be arrived at that does not increase the burden to commuters or put additional drain on the public purse. He did not elaborate.
Also addressing reporters, Minister of Transport and Works William Duguid, who attended the talks along with Chairman of the state-run Transport Board Gregory Nicholls, said while Government understood the plight of the owners and operators, it was focused on creating a “win-win”.
“Clearly the public service vehicle [operators] are our partners and they want to have and duly expect a reasonable rate of return on the investments that they would have made over the years in their vehicles and businesses as a whole. As an extension, the Government wants to see order on the roads. So once we can come to that middle ground and help them to get that better rate of return, they must in turn partner with us to give us better order and better control of their drivers.
“In that way we would be getting closer to a win-win situation,” the minister said.