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Out of evil cometh good

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by Jude Knight

There is an adage that “out of evil cometh good” and the recent impasse between government and the National Omni Bus Association (NOBA) can yield some good and all three sides (government, NOBA, public) can come out winners.

This is an opportunity to revamp the entire transport system to the benefit of all concerned.{{more}}

If we look at the Barbados model we will see that owners pay a yearly operating permit fee of BDS$4,500, drivers pay $210 and conductors $115. This not only gives government a good idea of the number of people in the system, but it also ensures that people with the required permits are the only ones operating these vehicles. Also, if there is some incident passengers will be able to identify the driver and conductor since their badges must be clearly visible at all times. Government will also be able to keep track of Income Tax and National Insurance payments.

A Public Transport Authority must be put in place. Besides the collection of fees, the department must have bus inspectors to thoroughly investigate complaints of commuters and operators. The inspectors would also have the authority to do random stop checks throughout the island. The operating fee paid would help to fund the Public Transport Authority’s office.

Decentralisation

But what other mutual benefits can there be? Government has a responsibility to assist the people who will be hardest hit by any fare increase. These commuters, probably some of the poorest, who are living at the far leeward and windward ends of the country, certainly can’t afford to pay any increase. So how does government help them?

Government has to create a favourable economic climate in rural areas in order to give residents a fair chance to survive financially. Ways of doing this would be to build a bus terminus probably at Layou and at Georgetown and buses would operate on a transfer system. Example: Some buses would travel from Tokyo to Georgetown return and some would travel from Georgetown to Fancy return. The Georgetown buses would charge a lower fare and accept a government subsidy while the Fancy buses would charge $1.50 and also get a subsidy from government. This should create more activity in the Georgetown area and at the same time give businesses an opportunity to flourish. As we have seen where there is a bus terminal small businesses usually spring out of nowhere and larger businesses seem to follow.

The government could capitalise on this by building a complex which would house an Income Tax Department, National Insurance Services Department, VINLEC office, Water Authority, a National Commercial Bank and a Post Office. And with an upsurge in traffic and economic activity private firms like Karib Cable, Digicel, Cable & Wireless, Courts and others will also take cue. This will provide more jobs for people in those rural areas and services will be in close reach.

How far can this project go? It will do government well to investigate the possibilities. Create the climate and let the people do the rest.

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