Saturday, February 23, 2019

Guyana: Government agrees to $20 hike in minibus fares

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Guyana Chronicle:-  THE government has agreed on a G$20 hike across-the-board in minibus fares, effective September 1, so that operators can surmount some of the financial challenges facing the sector.
This is the decision coming out of a meeting between the Ministry of Business and the United Minibus Union (UMU) last Thursday.

“The Ministry of Business has undertaken to draft the new fare structure for the various zones and routes, and will make this available to the United Minibus Union (UMU) for circulation to its members,” UMU said on Monday in a press statement. “Minibus operators are required by law to display the fare structure in all buses.”

UMU President Eon Andrews, later told the Guyana Chronicle that the fare increase will be based on the most recent fare structure agreed by the government, which should be published soon for clarity.

The release also states that both parties agreed on the need for an established Code of Conduct for minibus operators, and that engagements in this regard will continue.
Andrews said that future engagements with the government could include hospitality training for conductors, prior to their being allowed to uplift their conductors’ licence; guidelines on mode of dress; seating rules; and fare structure display.

“These discussions are ongoing,” Andrews said, adding: “As we go along, we may be able to highlight other things that we think should be put in place to get people to do decent things and behave like decent human beings.”

Added to this, the two parties when they met on Thursday also discussed the need for the proper enforcement of the Code of Conduct.
Said Andrews, “There was a consensus that this [needs] to be urgently addressed with the relevant authorities.

“We might request that there be severe penalties for travel violations… We’re trying to see if we can get those road violations incorporated into legislation, because a lot of these things may have to be legislated. “Some of them are there, but it’s just that people pretend as though they aren’t there. At the end of it, we’re hoping that it will be able to obliterate this whole incident of touting.”

Andrews said, too, that while the UMU may have pushed for more, they have agreed to settle for these changes for now.

“We may have wanted something more, but the minister has told us that the discussions to address that are not over; but in the interim, we are prepared to agree to let them [minibus operators] get something,” he said.

When the Guyana Chronicle took to the bus park, many of the minibus operators from various zones were happy about the change and agreed that the government should implement a code of conduct.

Route 40 minibus operator of some 24 years Jainarine Sukhdeo, presented his fare structure to show that he would have no issue with displaying it, even as he said that he welcomes the increase.

“Many things raise; all parts raise,” Sukhdeo said. “The mechanics raise their prices; the electrical and welding man raised their prices. So it’s not only tyres or gas; all things have been raised, so the increase would definitely help to maintain the buses.”

Speaking on the Code of Conduct, he said: “That is right! You’re supposed to be well dressed! You can’t be dressed anyhow and working, because you have people coming in your bus. So that is right; the road service says so.”

In total agreement was Route 44 operator Andrew Singh, who very much wants the government to implement a Code of Conduct, based on the many malpractices he has witnessed in his over 22 years on the job.

Some of those malpractices he hopes the Code of Conduct will discourage are: busses which operate on ‘hot plate’, overloading, touts tugging at passengers, and police officers who ignore these actions and more on a daily basis.

“There are some very careless drivers on the road; the majority of them are young bus drivers and conductors, so I think the government should look into that, because it is fair enough to give us the 20 dollars because you have to reach the people’s pocket, but passengers must be comfortable,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, uniform-clad UG-Industry minibus operators have been operating by a set Code of Conduct for years, and operator in this zone, Tekchand Surujpersaud, added his voice to the discussion.

“We don’t mind that it’s just $20, because everybody is not rich,” he said. “It’s not a rich person that catches transportation; rich people have their own vehicle.
“It’s poor people that travel in public transportation, so you can’t squeeze everybody. And a $20 increase is not too bad.”

Speaking on the proposed Code of Conduct, Surujpersaud said: “This is the only park so far that has a system; this is the only park that doesn’t have touts.
“We’re loading our bus ourselves and we’re going; we’re kind to customers. It would be better if this goes across the board, because right now you don’t know who is a tout or a thief.”

As September 1 approaches, the Business Ministry and UMU are urging both operators and consumers to adhere to the new fare structure when it becomes effective.

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