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The demand for fare increases was prompted by the recent hike in fuel cost. This fuel hike, in turn, has sent up operating costs, the drivers said.
About 60 minibus owners/operators converged at the 1763 Monument Square yesterday morning and held a meeting to decide on the new fare structure.
A spokesperson for the operators said their action was not intended to be a strike, but instead was an opportunity for them to meet and discuss the situation they faced.
With their 'Route 41' minibuses parked behind them, drivers and conductors agreed that beginning today, commuters should each pay $60 to travel from the Stabroek area to South Ruimveldt, while "short drops" to the East and West Ruimveldt areas would now be $40.
However, schoolchildren would only be required pay a flat fare of $30, a decision unanimously agreed upon by the minibus operators.
It was also agreed that the buses would resume operations today at 06:00 hrs.
This decision was taken after Mr. Hilbert Archer, Advisor to the President of the General Minibus Association of Guyana, announced that he was unable to meet Mr. Manzoor Nadir, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce to discuss the issue on Tuesday.
Archer said he was informed by Head of the Consumer Affairs Division within the Ministry, Mr. Clifford Zammett, that a meeting with the minister was not possible on Tuesday since Nadir had to attend Cabinet.
In a press release yesterday, the ministry said it recognises that the increase in the price for fuel has put a tremendous strain on the public transportation sector to maintain the present fare structure.
However, the ministry is asking operators of minibuses and hire cars to refrain from increasing their fares unilaterally. It is also advising consumers to inquire about the fares before entering vehicles so as to avoid any confrontation with the operators.
The minister is scheduled to meet representatives of the Minibus Association at 13:00 hrs today to discuss the fare issue.
At the 1763 Monument Square meeting, Archer advised the operators to go ahead and impose the new fare structure.
"We will go ahead with the $60/$40 (fare structure) with immediate effect and we will only go to the ministry tomorrow (today) as a formality. We don't want them to say that they have handed us the olive branch and we have refused," he told the gathering of minibus operators.
"We are resolutely on course because the gasoline price has increased," he said.
He pointed out that since the price for gasoline went up more than a week ago minibuses have been operating at a loss.
Posters with the new fare structure were printed and would be placed on each of the busses operating along the `41 Route'. This fare structure would be non-negotiable, Archer asserted.
He also urged conductors to advise persons who wish to board their vehicles that they should pay the increased fare.
"Buses do not make plenty money," one driver contended. He explained that over the past month, some auto dealers began re-possessing vehicles because the owners had failed to make contractual payments.
Archer attributed this difficulty in meeting payments to the current economic situation in Guyana, which was compounded by the recent hike in fuel prices.
Meanwhile, minibus operators from Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, who on Tuesday held a peaceful demonstration to back demands for an increase in fares, said members of the general public have been paying the $60 fare demanded.
The previous fare was $40.