By Michelle Sutherland Commuters can expect an increase in bus fares as early as next week, Belize Bus Association (BBA) President Thomas Shaw confirmed with The Reporter this week.
While admitting that the exact increase is yet unknown as it has to be reviewed Cabinet, Shaw promised that he will provide the public with an update by next Tuesday. Shaw, however, told The Reporter that he expects the increase to take effect in a week's time and is, therefore, warning commuters to budget and be prepared.
Following a meeting with Prime Minister John Briceño on Tuesday, Shaw told The Reporter, “In terms of the bus situation, it is looking really good for us. [It is] not actually what we wanted; it could be better, but we understand that there is a global crisis around the world so in terms of the bus fares there will be some sort of adjustment to it.”
According to Shaw, at the meeting which was attended by the prime minister, representatives from the unions, the government, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and the Governor of the Central Bank among others, they collectively discussed the pressing issue of fuel costs and the impacts on business and consumers. While they all contributed to the discussion on how the increase in fuel will affect the various industries and steps that can be taken to mitigate the overall effect, Shaw said that it was collectively agreed that the bus industry is in need of immediate relief.
“Well, if no consideration is given to the BBA then the bus industry will just come to a halt; operators cannot operate at a loss. So there is no ‘but,’ ‘if’ or ‘maybe.’ There has to be an increase in bus fares. If there isn't any relief at the pumps and no adjustment to the bus fares, then automatically the bus industry will have to close down.”
At that meeting, discussions also centered around the overall upgrade of the public transportation system, inclusive of getting relief on importing buses that are less than 10 years and extending bus operators' permits from 2 years to 10 years. This, according to Shaw, will assist bus operators tremendously when they go into the banks to get loans.
While Shaw said that he understands the strain that the price increase is going to put on commuters, he insists that it was something that should have been done years ago.
The agreement between the BBA and prime minister came about following consecutive days of meetings which went through the weekend. That is after the BBA had threatened to shut down the public transportation system if the government did not approve a price increase in fares. The BBA had requested the increase due to the rising fuel prices.