It won’t cost bus passengers five dollars, says the Prime Minister, but the days of the two-dollar bus fare are numbered.
Pensioners and police officers will continue to ride freely on Transport Board buses, she said.
Prime Minister Mottley could not immediately say what the bus fare would be increased to or when it was likely to take effect, but noted that a careful assessment would have to first be carried out.
“There is nothing else in Barbados that has only increased by 50 cents in the last  years. Will there be a bus [fare] increase to $5 as a certain media house populated the news to say, absolutely not. But will we have to sensibly review what the Transport Board and the minibus and ZR drivers get? Yes, we would,” said Mottley.
In a joint media conference on Friday with the IMF, Mottley told reporters that while Barbadians could definitely brace for an increase in bus fares, it would not be as high as $5, suggesting that an increase was “long overdue” given that “Barbados had only one 50 cent increase since 1991”.
Prime Minister Mottley said: “We are sensitive to people’s plight and that is why there will not be a $5 bus fare in Barbados. But we have to increase the bus fare from the $2. As to what it is the advisors will tell us what is necessary but still does not place a burden on the persons. And the Government will continue to maintain its role to support those who cannot carry that cost as we have always done,” she said.
She gave the assurance that some groups would not be affected the pending increase, while a decision was yet to be taken as it related to school children.
“For the pensioners we definitely will not be changing that. For the school children there are two schools of thought and we have not made a decision on it. There are those who say leave it and there are those who say means test it and allow those who really need it to get it,” said Mottley.
“Because of the scale of the depth of the problem at the Transport Board, I am not prepared to commit to a position on that without the evidence and without the relevant sides placing all of the data before us, but for the elderly persons without a doubt and for the police, without doubt, there will be no change,” Mottley assured.
Prime Minister Mottley’s attempt to head off growing public speculation of a $5 bus fare increase, comes as Barbados and IMF signed off Friday for balance-of-payments support, amid repeated calls for a fare increase from minibus and route taxi operators.
Public Service Vehicle (PSV) owners have been vocal in demands for higher bus fares, especially since the June 11 announcement of the abolition of road tax and introduction of a fuel levy.
She also warned that PSV operators
would need to get their act together, pointing out that “the bottom line is we have to bring order at the same time as we are also looking to bring financial order. Therefore this is a process”.
Last week, economists on the Government’s economic recovery task force unveiled details of the proposed Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme, among them suggestions from an unscientific poll of ordinary Barbadians recommending an increase in bus fares and other user fees.
Bus fare is currently set at $2, with pensioners, transport board officials, police officers and school children riding for free.