Bus operators to get 2-month $500 subsidy
While the government has agreed to a subsidy of EC$500 for minibus operators, the grouping has been encouraged to work, not only hard, but smart.
They have also been told that the EC$500 subsidy will be given for two months, but comes at a cost, that is, operators have to adhere to the COVID-19 minibus protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health.
Last week, some minivan operators withdrew their service because of the protocols which force them to carry only half the passengers they are licensed to.
The Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) later made several demands of the government, some of which had been described as “ridiculous” by the minister of transport.
On Wednesday while speaking on NBC Radio’s Morning Cup program, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said he had directed the Director General of Finance and Planning and the relevant persons at the ministry of transport, to provide, for two months, EC$500 support to the minibus operators with 18-seater vans and EC$600 to those whose vehicles have more than 18 seats.
The government will begin to work with the existing list of about 500 minivan operators complied during the 2020 COVID-19 relief effort, so new operators will have to be registered.
Gonsalves said he has made it plain that minivans will not get the subsidy if they don’t follow the protocols.
“You can’t come and ask for the money and still go and jam up the vehicle with 18 passengers and you also have to, of the five days Monday to Friday, you have to operate the bus at least four of those days because the tax payer can’t pay you money to stay home,” Gonsalves said.
A minimum of four operating days a week has been stipulated for vans to be eligible.
The Prime Minister said that this year, he is hoping to address several issues relating to the public transportation sector and he is glad that VINTAS is calling for proper regulation of the sector.
He however noted that while VINTAS spoke about regulating the public transportation sector, their demand for a waiver of all traffic tickets for picking up or dropping off passengers at points other than a bus stop, is out of sync with proper regulation.
Gonsalves also encouraged minivan operators to sanitize their buses as some of the minivans are not making use to the government’s sanitization stations located at the bus terminals in Kingstown.
He also asked persons who may have doubts about any issue that is affecting them to ask questions of the relevant authorities before taking certain actions, and noted that $7.25 million had been set aside in the 2021 Budget for COVID-19 support.
“It is money borrowed from the CDB and I don’t have it yet. We can spend and get reimbursed…there is absolutely no need for this strike.
“Why you do that? And you make a show of it, driving down the road, 20 vans crawling, ain’t picking up a soul and people want to get to work, and you annoying other road users…,” Gonsalves said of the move last week by some minivan operators.
Gonsalves said he told VINTAS’s management that moves like this do not influence him to act.
“…None of it, the public know,” Gonsalves said while adding that if unreasonable demands are made, he is unmoved.
“Leh we work together with this just the same way I am asking you, pleading with you, to take the [COVID-19] vaccine,” the Prime Minister said.