As the fuel prices debate rages on engulfing social, political and consumer institutions, the question on the minds of everyone is whether government will accede to a proposal before it by the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT).
Transportation Minister, Phillip J. Pierre and the NCOPT President, Godfrey Ferdinand both hailed the proposal as a “win-win proposal for both parties”. However, both have stopped short of highlighting what’s in the document.
The two sides met Tuesday for four hours at the end of which Ferdinand expressed his satisfaction with the way the meeting went.
“There were lots of dialogue and understanding at that meeting. This was the best meeting ever”, Ferdinand said yesterday.
Pierre also spoke highly of the meeting noting that it was a “good meeting” and that for now commuters need not worry about an increase in the bus fares.
Both sides were also evading another key, which is whether bus fares will remain as is for the long term or the short term.
Efforts by The VOICE to get responses drew a blank. However, a source close to Tuesday’s discussions revealed that it was extremely likely that the “freeze” on bus fares could be long term given a particular suggestion made by the NCOPT which is contained in the set of proposals currently being studied by the government.
The source further noted that the suggestion is drawing understanding from the government as well because it has to do with the government foregoing an already approved bus fare for subsidies to the minibus transportation sector.
Between 2012 and 2013 both the government and the NCOPT had agreed to a bus fare increase. The document was approved by both sides. It remained in a sedentary state because it was not signed into law.
The source explained that the NCoPT, this time around is trying to get government not to waive the signing of this approved document into law, arguing for subsidies instead.
The last time the NCOPT members got an increase in bus fares was in 2008 under the United Workers Party administration. Under the Saint Lucia Labour Party administration their pleas for an increase were countered by offers of subsidies instead.
According to Ferdinand the subsidies cancelled out bus fare increases twice since 2008.
“We are expecting a positive feedback from the government from the proposal we have given them. The government is expected to respond to us sometime in March,” Ferdinand said.
The NCOPT president has every reason to sound positive. According to our source the proposal before government was drafted in the presence of personnel from the Ministry of Transport and that it covers all parties involved.