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Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill on Wednesday announced the government has not authorised fare increase and is asking commuters not to pay more.
The minister, speaking at a press conference, said “So, whether it is minibuses, taxis, speed boats we have said no. You can only get more if the people want to pay more but we have advised the people, you have no right paying more.”
The minister also said consumers should not pay more when the government has removed Value Added Tax (VAT) from water and electricity and excise tax on imported fuel.
But transportation providers have a different view to the minister. One No. 32 driver said the minister is “living in a bubble.”
“They must come out from their AC offices and Prados and come here and see how prices gone up on everything. Food, gas, cooking oil, rice, sugar, meat, greens, rent; you name it, we paying more.” He asked how the minister expected them to survive, charging the same fare “when everything gone up.”
A commuter said last year she paid $200 (one way) to go to work and now she is paying $300. Her take home pay is $80,000. Asked about her grocery bills, she said as a mother of two (ages 7 and 10), her and husband are depriving themselves of many things to ensure their children can eat.
With tears in her eyes, the clerk, who has six CXC subjects, told Village Voice, things are difficult and this morning (i.e., Thursday) she stirred up some left-over rice with 12 bora she bought for $200, stripped a chicken leg, and made a meal for her children who are home with her husband who works as a security guard at nights.
Responding to the minister’s request for commuters not to pay more, ‘shucking’ her teeth, she asked “So what am I going to do, walk to work and home?”
An elderly woman at the Market, when approached by Village Voice about paying more to commute, said she has to live and the increased pension means nothing now. “I’m drinking black tea now and dem [the government] drinking milk.” A vendor chimed in “with all de oil dem a find we punishing moh bad.”
Village Voice spoke with a public servant who is retiring at year-end after 45 years of service. He said whilst he looks forward to retiring, he knows with reduced income things are going to be tougher. “I look forward to retirement and dread retirement at the same time. What an irony.”
He said the government should be providing public transportation to cushion the cost of increased fares and could afford to. “When they do that they can then dictate fares because it will be their buses, they will be paying the driver and conductor, they will be buying the fuel and servicing the vehicles.”