Government now has a “clean sheet” of proposals from route taxis and minibuses, including a renewed bid for an “immediate” hike in bus fares.
Fresh recommendations were requested three weeks ago by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid during the new administration’s first talks with the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO).
APTO head Morris Lee would not reveal to Barbados TODAY the details of the proposal, presented to the transport minister on Wednesday.
He would only say that the bus owners addressed the operations at bus terminals, uniforms, music in Public Service Vehicles (PSVs), noise emissions and a higher bus fare.
He said operators had been under fresh strain within the past month since the fuel tax replaced road tax.
“We want immediate consideration to be given to the fare increase because the fuel tax has brought about unprecedented hardships for the industry,” Lee said.
Route taxi owners have said since the fuel tax was introduced on July 1, monthly spending has roughly trebled to $6,741 from $2,250, while minibus operators’ costs have rocketed to $10,861 a month from $3,625.
APTO estimates that some of its members will be spending as much as an additional $31,200 per year in fuel which translates to a near 1,000 per cent increase on previously paid Road Tax which was $3,000 per year.
“Simply put, this means that we got a $1,500 deduction in one hand but pay $30,000 more from the other hand.”
Lee said they were prepared to consider Government’s suggestion that PSV operators be salaried in a bid to curb some of the industry’s excesses – from hustling and overcrowding to speeding and reckless driving. However, the APTO president maintained that this would be difficult if the bus fare remained at $2.00.
“When you consider the price of fuel, which is the highest in the Caribbean, and you also consider the flat salaries, then you have to work out what kind of bus fare will be able to carry that kind of mandate because you cannot pay for this very expensive fuel and pay a flat wage and still charge the commuter $2,” the APTO leader argued.
In her June 11 mini Budget, Mottley announced the scrapping of road tax and replaced it with a 40-cents-per-litre petrol and diesel tax levy, and a kerosene tax of five cents per litre. Mottley estimated a tax yield of $80 million annually.
In 2015, the private bus owners called for the fare to rise to $2.50, and in a letter last June to then Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, the owners asked for a $3 fare, a 50 per cent rise.
It was APTO’s answer to budget measures introduced by Sinckler, which included increases of 24 cents and 25 cents per litre in the excise duty on diesel and gasoline, as well as a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions and a steep jump in the now-repealed National Social Responsibility Levy, from two per cent to ten per cent.