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Speaking after a private visit to Linden while in Guyana recently, Consul Norman Faria said he was very impressed with the service, which is run by Sparta Global Enterprise headquartered at Kara Kara in Linden.
"I was very satisfied. From what I've seen, it is run on a business-like yet consumer-friendly manner including the issuing of fare receipts. There was no reckless driving and the music played from the small speakers was at a modest level. The driver on the round trip, Mr. Lennox Sampson, and the conductress, who initially knew me as just another passenger, were most cordial and helpful. The bus, which has a convenient centre aisle, was very well maintained. I later heard that, amazingly, the No. 5439 I went on was the very first bus of that type the company started with in 1997," said Mr. Faria.
Consul Faria commended the managerial team, including Operations Manager, Mr. Vibert Cummings, at Sparta Global Enterprise for their entrepreneurial initiative in what he called "a significant development in Guyana's mass transit sector".
He described it as a 'step above' the present mini bus service.
“Frankly, the noise pollution on mini buses in Guyana and Barbados gives me headaches and stress. The reckless driving also makes my stomach upset. So I was glad to see this option in operation."
He continued: "The Government of Guyana through the appropriate ministry recognises the need for the development of a countrywide, efficient, consumer-friendly mass transit system. In the future, there could be a government-run service to complement those in the private sector.”
“Guyana once had such a service with large buses made in India, I believe. We have to look at the benefits of economies of scale. The mini bus service at this conjuncture, with their smaller units, uses more fuel and spare parts in the long run. There are also uncalled for costs because of the high number of accidents they are involved in due to untrained drivers and the hustling for passengers to make a decent daily wage for the driver and conductor. This is causing the country the loss of valuable foreign exchange. The use of medium-sized buses, in the first instance, is a good move, not only to benefit the traveling public, but for the country's economy as a whole," Faria pointed out.
Global Sparta had its origins in the transporting of workers from the bauxite mines in Linden. When the decision was taken to start the run from Georgetown, investment was made in 26 and 30-seaters, mainly Toyota, Nissan and Isusu diesel-powered units. The buses are all distinctly painted in yellow, without any cluttering advertisements.
Aside from transporting people between Georgetown and Linden, the firm also offers special tours to visitors and local groups. Recently, a group of German tourists was taken on a trip to Suriname.
There are plans on the drawing board for expansion, particularly on routes to other parts of the country.
Part of the training programme at Sparta Global involves courses for drivers in safe driving. It is conducted by the Guyana Police. Psychological evaluation is also carried out. The training falls under the company's Human Resources Department headed by Mr. John Cummings.
The drivers are paid a regular salary. There is no inexcusable behaviour of competing bus drivers, conductors and touts manhandling potential passengers, which sometimes results in torn and soiled clothing, as happens among some in the mini bus sector.
The rides on the Sparta buses are also cheaper. The 65-mile trip to Linden costs $350 while you have to fork out $500 for the mini bus.
More buses will be needed by Sparta Global Enterprise for the expected increase in business. The firm has authorised the Guyana Honorary Consulate to make preliminary contact with a bus-manufacturing firm in Barbados, Acme Manufacturing, for model types and prices to see if these units would be suitable for the firm's operations.
Consul Faria said he was also pleased with the move to consider buying from what he described as 'a traditional trading partner' such as Barbados. "Sparta's management is understandably concerned about factors such as the reliable availability of spare parts, but will look into what the island has to offer. We have to realise that trade is a two-way street. Guyana cannot only send its exports to Barbados. Last year, Guyana exports to Barbados totalled approximately US$10.25M, while Barbados exported US$6M-worth of goods to Guyana during the same period. Barbadian-made buses on the Guyanese road would be a welcome development, although of course, a private company has the option of looking at other manufacturers such as those in Brazil,” Faria stated.
While in Guyana, Consul Faria attended the GUYEXPO 2002 exhibition. Part of the functions of Guyana diplomatic and consular missions is to promote Guyanese exports.
"I would like to congratulate the team at the Ministry of Trade headed by Minister Manzoor Nadir for the fine job they did. The exhibits were really wonderful and I was introduced to several new products and services along with fellow Honorary Consuls Lokesh Singh from St Lucia and Joe Gouveia from Antigua-Barbuda. There appeared to be an increase in computer technology-related exhibits this year. I went twice including the Sunday night, which had a massive crowd," he said