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Jun 24, 2005

CITCO taxes taxi drivers

Story PictureAll motorists in Belize are feeling the weight of exorbitant fuel rates due to the high percentage of tax being paid into the government’s coffers every time they fill their tanks. But now Belize City taxi drivers report they are facing yet another tax, this time on the use of city streets. News Five spoke with some of the more outspoken taxi men who say they simply can’t… and won’t pay.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Taxi unions and cooperatives in Belize City have received letters from the Belize City Council informing them that they will now have to pay a monthly fee to operate from street-side stands. The letter says the rental fee is to help the City of Belize address the congestion and chaotic parking situations on the streets. But the charge, which ranges from five hundred to one thousand dollars per stand, is no small price to pay. The taxi drivers say they understand that money is needed to operate the city, but it should not be at their expense. They say they simply cannot afford the outrageous price.

Leonard Ortiz, Taxi Driver, St. Martin?s Stand
?We no appreciate it, we feel bad about it. It is ridiculous, it too high, the price right. So we won?t be able to manage and pay for that.?

Roy Craig, Taxi Driver, Cinderella Plaza Stand
?Right now the economy is very bad and taxi drivers are actually not making any money. And all of these guys are going to say no. I understand that being the street vibes with hard talk, I understand from out here that none of the guys want to pay the money.?

Stanley Thomas, Taxi Driver, Majestic Taxi Assn.
?We will protest against it… have to. We can?t pay this, we noh di mek that kind of money to pay this. Government noh di ease us in nothing. Government di tax we hard because we have to pay this fuel prices and fuel prices are not going down. ?

Albert Robinson, Taxi Driver, Albert Street Stand
?We need to break down the amount they are charging us or we need to negotiation with them and ask them, isn?t this too much? We already have expense with the licensing, we have insurance, we have our own license, we have wear and tear expense that we have to deal with these cars to maintain them. And it?s big, it?s difficult for us to deal with a situation like this to just come overnight and say you have to pay so much.?

The letter, dated June fifteenth 2005, state that the payment comes into effect on July first, 2005. The taxi drivers say not only was this short notice, no one consulted them about a matter that will greatly affect their livelihood.

Albert Robinson
?They are intelligent people, they are in office, they are drafting up such a thing to enforce on us and we are supposed to just understand and just comply. And it has not been nice, the contents of the letter, in saying that if we don?t comply or respond by a certain date it will be given to other interested entities, or other interested people, after we have been there for so long. Now they are saying we are giving you first preference because you all have been there for so much time, like first option to deal with the situation, or if you don?t do that then you will have to leave.?

It?s a move some taxi drivers say they are prepared to make because they just do not have the money. There are a number of problems confronting the taxi service that most of the drivers agree will continue to cripple the transportation industry. Presently, city drivers pay eight dollars and eighty-five cents for a gallon of premium fuel, eight dollars and fifty-two cents for a gallon of regular fuel, and six dollars and forty-one cents a gallon for diesel. The new prices represent increases of six, eight, and twenty-three cents respectively.

Albert Cattouse, Driver, Albert Street Taxi Stand
?We are operating at a loss. Big time, big, big, big time we are operating at a loss. And there are a lot of other taxi drivers out here, but nobody want to get up and talk. But what we do, when we are together, we argue and talk all kind of things, we should of this and we should of that, but when the right thing for us to do is to go and try seek benefits, find a way, find a remedy that we could change things, the taxi drivers out here, they do not want to do nothing.?

Albert Robinson
?Tariff is one of the big ones. Because people are not satisfied with different taxis charging different fares and it look like this one di thief and that one di thief and it is not being set. We want it to be settled so that the paying customers will be aware of what the fare will be from point A to point B and so forth. They will be knowledgeable of what to pay and don?t think that they are being ripped off.?

Stanley Thomas, Taxi Driver, Majestic Taxi Stand
?We noh di make it. Sometimes some of us go home with thirty, forty dollars for the day. Some of us have we car fi pay, some of we driving for someone and we have to pay the forty dollars a day.?

The taxi unions say they will meet with their membership, but have no intention of paying the excessive rental fee.

It seems as if the taxi drivers cry did not fall on deaf ears. Late this evening Belize City Council informed News Five that they will be sending another letter to the taxi unions. This time, however, drivers are being informed that instead of the initial rental fee they now will be charged per parking space, which is fifty dollars a month.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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