Press Release:- The Saint Lucia Labour Party has taken note that the bus operators of Route 2H and the supportive drivers of other associations have put the interests of the country’s commuters first and resumed their operations Wednesday following their attempt to have the Government address the issues that have been confronting the sector for some time, and that have been made more painful by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While normal service has returned to the county’s passenger bus routes this does not absolve the Government from being responsible for causing this crisis.
It is unacceptable that, after almost ten months of agitation by the affected Minibus operators, the Government has failed to satisfactorily deal with the difficulties facing the Mini Bus sector.
It is also of great concern, that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport, indicated through their public pronouncements that they have no intention of sitting down soberly with those impacted to settle the issues.
Rather they seem bent on encouraging divisions among our people –suggesting that others should take advantage of the protest action by the concerned Minibus Operators and offer their services to the public.
The fact that the sector is critical to the domestic economy in that commercial and business
activity within the country is severely hampered by the inability of the population to commute seems to have totally escaped this administration.
As the Saint Lucia Labour Party understands it, the bus operators would like their issues to be seriously considered and resolved by the Ministry of Transport in a framework within which they follow COVID 19 Protocols but at the same time are able to earn a respectable livelihood.
Their very day to day lives and their business are being severely impacted by COVID 19.
In a National Address in March proposing an Economic Support and Survival Programme for
COVID 19 and in his contribution to the Budget Debate 2020/2021 on June 24, 2020, our
Political Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Philip J Pierre, made far ranging proposals to tackle the economic issues impacting the various sectors of the economy.
Among these were recommendations regarding the transportation sector.
With respect to the minibus operators, the Leader of the Opposition proposed that fuel vouchers in the amount of $3m be made available to them.
This and the other recommendations have been totally ignored and need to be urgently revisited at this time.
We therefore call on the Government once again to use the US$27 million obtained from the IMF for economic income support for COVID 19 to be reassigned to its original purpose.
We also call for the repurposing of the loans being assigned to capital works that are of no pressing import to the social and economic interventions that are necessary at this time.
The Government that does not listen does not know it all. It is time to put the people of Saint Lucia first.
Headline photo caption: Stranded commuters during bus strike