THE question as to whether minibus drivers should opt for a rebate rather than an increase in their bus fares is now a talking point among minibus drivers in the south of the island.
In interviews with executive members and some of the minibus associations in the south, their preferences vary. However, they have all agreed that the economic situation in the country is affecting them deep down in their pockets.
There is an agreement between the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT) and government that once fuel price goes past $12.75 a gallon, there will be a bus fare increase.
A vote on the issue is expected soon.
“An increase in bus fares will result in less people travelling…” Richards said, adding that a rebate will be in their interest for the time being.
According to Richards, an increase in bus fares will have a domino effect in the country, adding that workers in other sectors will ask for an increase in their salaries.
He added that if minibus drivers agree to accept a rebate, it should not be given to them through the NCOPT.
Some years ago, a rebate given to some minibus drivers was invested by NCOPT into a business, ‘Combined Investment’, which minibus drivers say is not rewarding.
“We want NCOPT to keep out of that… I would prefer the government to give us our rebate through the various minibus associations throughout the island…” Richards said.
“Up to now we don’t know what’s happening with our investment…” Richards lamented.
Willie Jeremie, Secretary and former President of the Laborie Minibus Association said: “An increase in bus fares does not mean minibus drivers will make more money, because people will travel less.”
He too does not want NCOPT to handle their rebate, if minibus drivers agree to opt for it.
Willie said not every route is entitled to an increase in bus fares, so an increase will not be of benefit to all minibus drivers.
However, Sheldon Leriche, Secretary of the Belle Vue and Pierrot Minibus Association (Route 4B) has a different view.
He said an increase in bus fares will be more beneficial to bus drivers and owners than a rebate.
“Everything in the country is increasing, both goods and services,” he lamented.
“We (minibus drivers) are not the ones responsible for increasing the price of fuel,” he added.
Leriche said he does not believe a reduction in travelling will significantly affect minibus drivers.
Darius Jn. Baptiste, Vice President of Route 4C, said he too would prefer to have an increase in bus fares.
He said one of the reasons he prefers an increase in bus fare is because of his experience with NCOPT. He said their (NCOPT) investment into a business with his rebate was not of any benefit to him.