‘Economic slow poison’
The fuel tax introduced last year replacing road tax in this country is a major burden on the public transport sector.
In fact, Interim Chairman of the Association of Public Transport Operators (APTO), Morris Lee is deeply concerned that if the public service vehicles (PSVs) do not get an ease, over a period of time many of the operators will go out of business, reducing the availability of public transportation on the nation’s road.
“If it is ever a time that the Government and people needed the PSVs it is now, the sheer numbers in terms of the Transport Board with 60 buses and the PSVs with 700 tells me that this industry is an extremely vital industry to the country,” he said.
In an interview with The Barbados Advocate, Lee insisted that the PSVs are keeping the economy going, but he lamented that as they keep the economy’s wheels turning, they are suffering, as their operating costs are skyrocketing. He made the point while describing the fuel tax introduced last July as “economic slow poison”.
“You may not necessarily feel it every day but the buildup over a period of a year, especially for the bigger buses is as much as 1 000 percent more than your road tax. If an operator was paying $3 000 road tax and at the pump he is paying a little over $100 more in diesel, when you multiply $100 by 312 days, I left out the Sundays and bank holidays, it is $31, 200. So if you were paying $3 000 road tax and the Government gives you back $1 500 in your left hand and is pulling $31,200 from your right hand, that is really not relief,” he maintained.
Lee added, “But they are not feeling it because they don’t have to pay the $31,000 one time, they are paying it over a year. So every day the business is slowly, slowly dying without it being noticed by the public.”
The APTO head also raised the issue of unfair competition in the sector, as he said that the privately owned PSV are still paying a higher annual registration fee, which is 50 percent of the road tax previously paid.
“A minibus...is now paying $2 125, but at the same time the Transport Board minibus is paying $400 and we have a problem with that. For the last 25 years we have been saying that the playing field wasn’t level, when it is $3 625 for the PSV, the Transport Board was paying $800. Every audit has shown that the Transport Board is getting $9 for moving a passanger while the PSV is still only getting $2. That $7 difference is made up by the subsidy provided to the Transport Board,” he added.
Lee is adamant that these issues have to be addressed not only for the survival of the PSV sector, but the country as a whole which relies heavily on the PSV to get to and from work on a daily basis.(JRT)