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Sep 26, 2003

Govt. seeks organisation of taxi business

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When the meeting opened it was not known that before the day was out a taxi driver would knock down a little girl in Hattieville. But the tragedy on the Boom Road only served to emphasise the importance of what was taking place at the Belize Institute of Management. In that meeting, what was being proposed was the organisation of a business that has traditionally been the last of frontier of free–some would say too free–enterprise.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

They were frank with their comments and not afraid to voice their opinions on issues affecting taxi service in Belize City. And that was just what the Transport Department counted on when they convened a series of nationwide consultations. Transport Commissioner Phillip Brackett says the exercise is designed to bring tighter controls to the industry.

Phillip Bracket, Commissioner of Transport

“Basically it is to arrive at a general taxi policy. We realise that there are quite a few inconsistencies in the industry and in an attempt to better organise and to help the taxi operators themselves to organise, government has decided to do this consultation and then to arrive at a stakeholders base policy.”

An ambitious twenty-two point agenda was on the table for discussion this morning, including standardisation of fares, quality of vehicles used as taxis and the touchy matter of operators who drink on the job. For members of the Majestic Taxi Association, this particular issue hit especially close to home.

Stanley Thomas, President, Majestic Taxi Association

“Very important. Because for once, that all taxi members should abide by the law. For one, drinking on the job; that’s where we make our money. And I as the president I try to talk to them, I try to show them, guys this is where me make our money, come on, you can’t the come out here drinking liquor. Then the two guys, only two guys we have, they go and bring guys from Victoria Street at Majestic, and they start one riot. Then when the other members talk to them, they beat them up.”

Thomas says a national policy, along with assistance from authorities, would help him better police his members and protect customers. Brackett says that since the consultations started last month, the consensus is that there are problems in the industry that require urgent attention.

Phillip Bracket

“One of the issues that comes from town to town is the issue of for example dress. You may have observed some taxi men, they go about in slippers, in short pants. The conditions of their vehicles at times are pretty bad conditions, smelly, that sort of thing. You notice, as you notice here today, one of the issues is operating taxis while drinking. The issue of security also comes in, in terms of who can enter the industry and what sort of safeguards they have that others cannot just come into the industry with little experience and basically take away their market share.”

But while revenue is an important consideration, the requirements for obtaining a taxi man’s license also generated a lot of discussion. According to representatives of the Belcan and Ladyville Airport Taxi Associations, there are inexperienced people entering the market who are making things hard for the veterans.

Arthur Requeña, V.P., Belcan Taxi Association

“I think something like this should have done long time ago. Because the reason why we have a lot of underage drivers, young drivers, inexperienced drivers doing taxi, don’t even know the city, don’t even know where to take people. When people come have to ask them where to go, the customer has to direct you where to go. You don’t need someone like that. You need a taxi driver that is competent that whenever he or she gets a job, he knows where to take the people.”

Sam Pinkard, Pres., Ladyville Airport Taxi Union

“I think it should have been done a long time and really appreciate things like this coming forward. I do think that dress code should be involved, because you are being identified who you represent. And the age group, I think it goes in a way a balanced way, because you have people that are older than others, have more experience, the younger group of people tends to stray a little. I think they must have some public relations involved.”

After today’s consultation, San Pedro is the final destination on the tour. At the end of the nationwide exercise, Brackett says draft legislation will be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

Among the initiatives under consideration is the phased in colorization of vehicles used as taxis, limiting the age of vehicles to be used for public service purposes, requiring health certificates for taxi operators and a minimum and maximum age for people who drive taxicabs. According to the Transport Commissioner, the national policy for the taxi industry should be ready for implementation by January 2004.

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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