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Minivan operators who withdraw service will not get subsidy – PM

Minivan operators who withdraw service will not get subsidy – PM
PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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The government will try to monitor which minivans are still transporting passengers as the second round of COVID-19 public transportation subsidies is set to roll-out.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made it clear on Wednesday that monitoring the minivans is problematic, but the government is serious about not paying operators who have withdrawn their services and refuse to transport members of the public.

Speaking on NBC Radio’s Morning Cup program on Wednesday, Gonsalves said that transport officers attached to the Ministry of Transportation and Works and traffic officers attached to the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) will be asked to monitor which minivans are working.

“The practicality of implementing the restrictions which we are imposing is problematic but at least I have to establish the principle to you.

“You might find that two out of every 10 that stay home do not get the money because those are the ones we got the information on,” Gonsalves expressed.

On March 8, for the second time in 2021, minivans withdrew their services, because of the February 1 stipulation by the Ministry of Health that they carry only half of the passengers for which they are licensed.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) has asked for reconsideration of the number of passengers they are allowed to carry and he has sent the letter to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer-Beache for her input and he is awaiting a response.

Government has agreed to give a subsidy of EC$500 for 18-seater vans and EC$600 for those with over 18 seats but the vans must work at least four days a week to qualify.

The VINTAS president does not consider this feasible, saying operators would prefer an increase in the number of passengers they are allowed to transport and the government keep the subsidy.

Gonsalves said VINTAS should know that the maximum request of 14 passengers is not reasonable but government will look at their minimum request of 12 passengers.

He expressed disappointment with the decision of some minibus operators to withdraw their services.

He said VINTAS’s president complained that he did not receive a letter from government to communicate the government’s intentions but he (Dr Gonsalves) called Adams personally and explained the situation.

The Prime Minister said Government is making arrangements for the payments to be made, but recipients must be on the road.

“You can’t expect to be parked up and get the money and…it seems reasonable to require that you be on the road for four days,” Gonsalves said while noting that consideration will be given if something is wrong with the vehicle.

“What I understand is that they would like, that even if they stay home, you must give them the money.

“I can’t pay you the money staying home. That is an unreasonable proposition. How I am going to know if you stay home or not is another story, but there has to be reasonableness in this matter. But why come off the road?” Gonsalves questioned.

He noted that some of the other requests made by VINTAS in their recent letter are reasonable, including the installation of a washroom facility in Caratal, Georgetown.

“They are asking, not unreasonably, for a facility…we have to get a spot and that is not an unreasonable request,” Gonsalves said.