The Guyana Public Transportation Associa-tion (GPTA) and the General Minibus Association (GMBA) have announced increases in bus fares in amounts ranging from $20 to $60. The new fares took effect yesterday.
The minibus associations said operators can no longer await a decision from the relevant authority as no response has come as yet from Minister of Commerce Manniram Prashad or any other official, although they have sent a detailed report to his office on the new bus fares.
A $20 increase has been instituted on ‘short drops’ while $60 has been added to the fares for outlying areas such as Mahaica and Timehri. The increases affect Georgetown and its surroundings; East Coast, East Bank, West Coast and West Bank Demerara; Linden; Berbice; Mahdia and Lethem.
Speaking at a press conference at the United Force Headquarters yesterday morning, President of the GPTA Nicholas Nnamani said operators could no longer put off raising bus fares since every item involved in the servicing and everyday running of a minibus has risen by 300% from May 2005, when the last fare increase was implemented.
He said that while the operators sympathized with the financial plight of the travelling public they had no choice. He said the associations have taken matters into their own hands since no resolution has been forthcoming from the numerous meetings held with Prashad, Minister of Finance Ashni Singh and the President. His counterpart Compton Giddings added that negotiations started since January and the situation has reached “saturation point and there is nothing else we can do [but raise the fare,” because minibus operators are consumers too.
Advisor to the GMBA Hilbert Archer said he believed that a 50% fare hike should have been implemented.
Archer said the advent of minibuses had contributed significantly to increased productivity in the economy and still played a critical role. He said that in the past it was unforeseen that overland travel to Mahdia, Lethem and other interior locations would have been possible; now a minibus takes you even to Suriname in a shorter time that is more conducive to doing business. Archer said that in the light of the minibuses’ importance he did not think it was “too much to ask for this slight increase.”
Meanwhile President of the GMBA Lylon Weithers said the time for discussions has ended and it was now time for action. He said action has been taken by the associations because minibus operators can no longer subsidize the travelling public. The associations will handle the possible advent of big buses when “it is time to cross that bridge,” he added. He said too that the associations are open to discussions of placing minibuses under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Agreeing that the increases have not been sanctioned by any authorities Weithers said, “We’re prepared for whatever response comes”.
It was also noted that the raise was expected to extend to hire cars as well. Minibus operators have complained about the continuous increase in fuel prices coupled with the price for spare parts and the high cost of living having a drastic affect on them. They said that it was no longer feasible for them to operate the various routes using the current fare structure. Some operators had initiated arbitrary increases in fares and had staged several strikes in recent months.