In light of recent calls for increased fares by minibus operators, some of whom have resorted to protests, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson yesterday said there is need for a body to regulate the transportation sector.
At the opening of the Kitty Roundabout yesterday morning, Patterson was questioned on the issue, since the government has not made any public statements on it.
He then explained that he has been engaging Business Minister Dominic Gaskin on the matter privately “and it signals that we need a larger and more comprehensive discussion on transportation.”
“I do think that we have to look at a transportation regulatory body, just like how you have the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] that regulates power. I think it is time we look at the regulatory body—I don’t know, maybe under the PUC or under the Consumer Affairs Department [of the Ministry of Business]—but it is something we have decided that is needed so that they can regulate fares, not only here or only for minibus drivers but we are talking about the other areas, such as the speed boat operators,” Patterson explained, while emphasising that there is a need for a more organised framework to manage the transportation sector.
Last Wednesday, bus drivers from both the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara suspended operations to protest for increases in light of rising gas prices.
Operators also gathered at the Ministry of Business on South Road with placards.
They had explained to Stabroek News that they were proposing a $20 across-the-board fare increase.
However, head of the United Minibus Union Eon Andrews on Friday explained that the union was not in support of the strike action by the drivers and all it wanted was to sit down with the government and the relevant authorities to discuss the situation.
Andrews condemned extreme actions that were being taken by some operators, which included the burning of tyres along the East Coast Embankment road.
Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Andrews explained that the Union was able to meet with the Consumer Affairs Department of the Ministry of Business, with which it had a lengthy discussion.
“We looked holistically at what was going on as it relates to activities of the bus fare increase and we have agreed that a date will be set where we have to send a proposal because some of these things will need Cabinet approval and so on. It was very cordial and I think they want to talk to us,” Andrews said, before adding that the Union will try its best to deliver the proposal to the ministry before the end of the week.
Andrews had argued that the raise in gas prices was not the only factor influencing the drivers call for an increased rate and explained that the increasing operational costs also played a major factor. He had also pointed out that there has been no change in bus fares for almost a decade, while operational costs have increased exponentially over the same time period.