The National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) believes it is unfair to minibus drivers that amid rising prices everywhere, minibus operators have not had a fare increase in some ten years.
NCOPT President Godfrey Ferdinand asserts that consumers can afford to pay more for water, electricity, airline tickets, and items at supermarkets and hardware stores but balk at the notion of increased bus fares.
“Why allow the supermarkets, the companies the hardware stores to raise everything strictly based on shipping and everything that we are using too has gone up, but we are not allowed to raise our fares. That’s unfair,” Ferdinand told St Lucia Times.
He indicated that the situation has become even more challenging due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has drastically reduced mini bus operators’ earnings and caused them to struggle to pay their debts, including money owed to financial institutions.
Health, Wellness, and Elderly Affairs Minister Moses Jn Baptiste recently announced that public omnibuses should not carry more than ten passengers as of Monday under the latest COVID-19 protocols.
Ferdinand recalled that the NCOPT has always asked the government to provide some form of subsidy.
“When you divide the financial subsidy that the government is giving us, for example the $800 the guys are receiving right now. When you divide it to the number of working days it equates to a dollar. You are forfeiting four seats and the government is giving you a dollar a day,” the NCOPT President explained.
“Persons need to understand that we have actually worked with both political parties to try to work with our customers but they don’t feel for us. They can afford to pay the increases in the supermarkets in airline tickets water electricity, every other things but bus fares,” Ferdinand lamented.
And he said bus operators want the public to work with them to reduce the COVID-19 numbers so that things can return to some semblance of normalcy.