It took a public outcry of “pain”, not a “caring government” that forced down bus fares three days after they shot up 75 per cent, the Opposition Leader suggested today.
Bishop Joseph Atherley contended that while some may argue that Prime Minister Mottley’s emergency meeting with transport industry players was a sign of Government’s willingness to listen to the people, it was clear to him that the administration’s hand was forced by the “voice of the people”.
“The Government might want to suggest that the meetings yesterday and those subsequently ongoing, is indicative of an administration with a listening ear and that they care and are responding. I would prefer to put the emphasis elsewhere. I think it points to the power of the voice of the people,” said Atherley, who spoke to Barbados TODAY following a tour of the Constitution River terminal this morning.
“So it is not so much that the Government is giving a caring ear, but rather the voice of the people is a powerful instrument and that voice loudly sounded the pain over this policy fiasco of increased bus fares.”
Bishop Atherley said he was concerned that it took the grumblings of the travelling public to bring about dialogue on a critical matter of everyday living. He therefore advocated that voters continue to let their voices be heard on issues of concern to them.
“I have to question why it had to take this huge outcry from Barbadians to trigger a process of dialogue on an issue as critical as public transportation,” said Bishop Atherley. “If you are implementing policy with respect to public transportation, I would have thought that the process of dialogue would have taken place before implementation.”
In a change of heart, the Prime Minister revealed that school children travelling on public service vehicles (PSVs) will pay $2.50.
She made the announcements following an over two-hour meeting with stakeholders in public transport at Government Headquarters.
Agreements were also reached to integrate PSVs into the Transport Board’s brand and on changes to be made to how PSV operators are disciplined.
Noting that her Government was working towards rebuilding the fleet of the Transport Board, Mottley said: “Privately-owned PSVs have agreed that they will not charge school children more than $2.50.
“In the case of the Transport Board buses that $2.50 obviously is paid by Government. In the case of the PSVs that are privately-owned not working under the Transport Board brand, then the school child will pay $2.50.”
The Prime Minister said that having spoken with Minister for Information Technology Senator Kay McConney and elder affairs minister Cynthia Forde, a decision had also been taken to give a discount to those Transport Board users who bought rides in bulk in the form of a smart card.
She said this would reduce the discount fare from $3.20 to $3.
Atherley told Barbados TODAY that he welcomed the reduction in the fares, as he believes that it will bring some form of relief to the travelling public.
“Any kind of reduction in any area in Barbados that gives relief to the burdensome circumstance obtaining in domestic situations in Barbados, I suppose is a good thing. So, I am happy to hear that there has been some reduction, especially that school children will not have to pay $3.50 in relation to travel on the minibuses.
“We still have to bear in mind that the $2.50 is still an increase and we are in an unfortunate situation where the state cannot provide public transportation universally. So, there are areas where people have to rely solely on privately-owned public transport.”