Address by the Hon. Felix Finisterre On the Increase in Bus Fares
ADDRESS BY THE HON. FELIX FINISTERRE
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS WORKS, TRANSPORT AND PUBLIC UTILITIES
ON THE INCREASE IN BUS FARES
Thursday September 22nd – 8.00 p.m.
Fellow Saint Lucians, Good evening.
Only a few weeks ago, the Government of Saint Lucia took the very painful yet inevitable decision to approve an increase in the price on fuel. This was done after many years of subsidising the price at the pumps, and consequently ensuring that the prices of many other goods and services did not increase.
When the new price came into effect on September 14th this year, many service providers felt that it was time for them to make a case for their own price increase. Government is conscious of the tremendous strain on these entrepreneurs who were grappling with the price of other inputs. In the case of the minibus operators, there is evidence that insurance in particular increased by over 20%, and not to mention the prices of vehicle parts and servicing.
Recognising that minibus drivers in particular had not been granted a fare increase since 1996, Government agreed that a fare review was overdue. I must hasten to remind the public that notwithstanding the absence of a fare increase Government has agreed on a series of wide ranging measures to would provide some relief to the minibus operators in return for maintaining their service at existing fares.
In November 1998, there was a negotiated agreement between the Government of Saint Lucia and the National Council on Public Transportation. The said agreement incorporated five (5) basic elements namely:
Following discussions with the representatives of the National Council on Public Transportation, Government of Saint Lucia made a commitment to review the proposals for new fares and announce a decision which would come into effect on September 23rd 2005.
The Ministry for Communications, Works, Transport and Public Utilities set out immediately to address the issues in the proposal from the NCOPT. It was agreed, in keeping with Sections 48 (7) and (8) of The Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act of 2003, the St. Lucia Road Transport Board appointed a Committee of five (5) persons to conduct a review of a proposal submitted by the National Council on Public Transportation for Bus Fare increases.
It was noted that the proposal highlighted three major components:
It is noted that while the summary proposal from the NCOPT requested the reduction in the age only for children out of uniform, the route associations are insisting that all children, in and out of uniform pay the full fare.
The committee reviewed a wide range of issues and all available data, and accepted the request for the increase in the price of bus fares. The first major recommendation was for the Minister to approve an increase in bus fares for adults in the range of 25 cents to $1.00 during normal operating hours that is from 4.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. An additional 25% of the stipulated fare between the hours of 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM is recommended as an incentive to operators, to provide a critical service at a time when there is a low volume of commuters.
This increase means that for the short routes such as Castries to Mongiraud, the fare goes up from $1.25 to $ 1.50 representing a 20% increase; Castries to Piaye goes up from $8.00 to $9.00 reflecting a 12.5% increase and Soufriere to Quarte Chemin from $1.00 to $ 1.25 resulting in a 25% increase. In the case of Dennery - Castries to Dennery Village from $3.00 to $3.50 or an increase of 16.7%. These are only some examples and the entire listing of new fares will be published in the official gazette and the local media. The Road Transport Board has also made recommendations for routes where no established fare was in place.
Notwithstanding, the St. Lucia Road Transport Board at its meeting of September 19 2005, to consider the report of the Committee acceded to a proposal from the member representing the N.C.O.P.T. and approved a $1.00 minimum bus fare or 50% of the adult fare for children below age 15, whichever is greater.
Government’s decision is based on the simple fact that the Education Regulations set the compulsory school age between the ages of five and fifteen years. The Government is further committed to realising its vision and policy of universal secondary education and therefore remains steadfast in its decision to the recommendations for the fares for school children. This we are certain will be welcomed by the thousands of parents who must get the bus fares for children daily.
Finally, it has been brought to brought to our attention that some form of protest action may be planned for tomorrow that will have commuters stranded and perhaps unable to return to their homes.
Government wishes to discourage this action and hopes that good sense will prevail among mini-bus drivers. In the event however that protest action is taken, we want to advise the public to be cautious and make back-up plans, especially in respect of school children.
We believe that the increases are fair, and Government remains committed to continue addressing all the other issues in the transportation sector.
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