The Ministry of Commerce is warning that it may place public transportation under the control of a regulatory agency if minibus operators continue to impose unreasonable fares on passengers.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Minister Manzoor Nadir made an appeal to operators who have increased their fares to revert to the old fare structures. He said the increases have caused some concern and confusion to members of the general public, who he said are complaining to the ministry. This is an urgent development, he added, noting also that commuters who are not abiding by requests for increases, are being harassed.
The minister pointed out that the government has lowered the Consumption Tax (C-Tax) on fuel, resulting in a drop of $35 per gallon at Guyoil stations and similar reductions at others. He said the ministry had asked that some operators hold off on fare increases as a result of the reduction and also because of the government's belief that the recent increases are temporary.
But Nadir said several operators are still enforcing fare increases, arguing that they were faced with other operating costs as well.
"But the primary reason is the jump in fuel prices. That has been the catalyst for the price increases," he said, while affirming that the Consumer Affairs Division of the Ministry has not sanctioned any fare increases.
If the situation persists, Nadir said, the government would be forced to examine putting [transportation] fares under the purview of a regulatory agency. And while he added that his ministry was not inclined to do so it has a greater obligation to the travelling public who have no alternative but to use public transportation. There have already been calls by some consumer organisations for minibuses, hire cars and speedboats to be put under some regulatory agency, he said. And according to him, a meeting with operators to discuss operating costs, scheduled for the end of the month, could be a precursor to a formal engagement for some form of regulation, not only for fares but also on the entire public transportation operation.
Asked to comment on the possibility of industrial action, he noted that the road service permit required that operators perform their duty and he asserted that a widespread withdrawal of services would speed up moves towards regularisation.
While some operators, primarily those plying Route 44 - Georgetown-University of Guyana, and from Georgetown-Beterverwagting - staged industrial action on Monday, leaving many commuters waiting in vain for transportation, many operators resumed work yesterday. Some did continue their protest at the refusal of many passengers to pay new fares. (Andre Haynes)