The General Minibus Association of Guyana (GMBA) yesterday announced fare increases of up to 33% for the Lodge\South-East West Route 41 minibuses.
This move comes even as the other minibus organisation, the Guyana Public Transportation Association (GPTA) lobbies government for a reduction of the consumption tax (c-tax), to help operators control fares for passengers.
However officials of consumer associations and the Ministry of Commerce have objected to the unilateral increase.
Close to 100 Route 41 operators assembled at the Square of the revolution from 6 am yesterday, to discuss the increase, which they maintained has been brought on by the increases in fuel prices coupled with maintenance and other surging costs, which prevented them from meeting their daily targets.
President of GMBA, Lylon Weithers told reporters that the operators could wait no longer to impose increases with the recent increases in the price of fuel at gas stations around the country.
While advisor to Weithers, Hilbert Archer, said the increases are non-negotiable he was of the view that should fuel prices reduce significantly, to about $290 per gallon, lowering fares would be considered.
Acting President of the GPTA, Compton Giddings, proposed a price freeze when he met with Minister of Commerce Manzoor Nadir on Tuesday. Giddings said if the Government could lower the C-Tax, allowing the price of gasoline to drop to around $420 per gallon, the Association was proposing to hold off from increasing fares at least for one month. Failing this, the Association says it will begin negotiations with consumer associations with a view to implementing increases.
The C-Tax is presently 50% for gasoline and 25% for diesel and Government has in the past reduced the rate once fuel prices have gone over $400.
Fuel prices have recently gone as high as $475 due to a strike in Venezuela - Guyana’s main supplier.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Consumers Advisory Bureau, Eileen Cox, said there was no justification for large increases which are being imposed unilaterally by some operators. She said operators or their associations should work with the consumer associations, the Ministry or the Public Utilities Commission, to agree reasonable increases. She said any forthcoming increases should be commensurate with the rise in fuel prices.
President of the Guyana Consumers Association (GCA), Patrick Dial, meanwhile said the GCA objected to some operators making a profit on the increase. “We do not think prices should be raised willy-nilly,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce issued a press statement advising operators and hire car owners to refrain from unilaterally increasing their fares. The Ministry nonetheless said that it has recognised that there has been an increase in the price of fuel which has put a tremendous strain on the public transportation sector to maintain the present fare structure. And consumers are further advised, the statement said, to inquire about the fare before travelling so as to avoid any confrontation with the operators.
A meeting is to be held today in the Ministry’s boardroom. This will include representatives from the consumers associations, and the GPTA. Archer told Stabroek News that the GMBA would make efforts to attend the meeting as a formality.
Many minibus operators plying the Georgetown to Mahaica route (Route 44), have, since Monday, enforced new fares for passengers travelling from Georgetown. The new fare structure has already been posted in many of the minibuses. And according to some of these operators, passengers who are complaining are in the minority since up to 95% of passengers are paying the increased fares. But up to yesterday there were some operators who had still not increased their fares. A trip to the University of Guyana with one of the Route 44 minibuses now costs commuters $60. Some operators charged $40 from the University Road to the city. But these operators say they cannot continue to absorb the increases, and at least one of them was of the view that at least a $10 increase could cover the extra cost.
Meanwhile, at the East Bank Route 42 `car park’, a move by operators to increase their fares fizzled yesterday and commuters paid regular rates. According to several drivers some passengers paid while others refused and they did not pressure commuters too much. There were little, if any, significant increases for commuters travelling along the Georgetown to Lusignan route (Route 50).
There was a short strike by operators of the Main-Lamaha Route 45, who refused to pick up passengers at mid-morning. Only a few operators continued to work. By the afternoon, more minibuses were back on the streets.
As minibuses remained at the Square of the Revolution for most of the day, many commuters travelling the route were left stranded at the `South car park’. And since many minibuses failed to return to work, commuters -including many students, were left stranded up to late yesterday evening. Many, as the hour grew late, resorted to walking and some others took taxis, while the few minibuses which operated were filled beyond their legal capacity.
The fare structure for Route 41 as proposed by the General Minibus Association of Guyana (with effect from today) is as follows:
Old Fare New fare
Stabroek - South : $40 $60
Stabroek - Lodge $30 $40
Stabroek - East\West (Ruimveldt) $30 $40
*Short drops $30 $40
School children (in uniform) $20 $30
*Short drops end at the Square of the Revolution coming out of South Ruimveldt
The proposed fare Structure for Route 44 as is now already being charged by several buses is as follows:
From Georgetown To: Old Fare New fare
Sheriff Street - UG Road $30 $40
Atlantic Ville - Industry $40 $60
Ogle - Plaisance $40 $60
Better Hope - Ressouvenir $40 $60
Success - B.V - Mon Repos $60 $80
Good Hope - Annandale - Strathspey $60 $80
Coldingen - Melanie $60 $80
Foulis - Enmore $80 $100
Haslington - Victoria $80 $100
Nootenzuil - Hope - Ann’s Grove $100 $120
Bee Hive - Unity $100 $120
Mahaica $120 $140