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Apr 17, 2002

Gov’t seeks to get a handle on bus fares

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Today has not seen any more clarity in the dispute over bus fares, but on Thursday, bus operators and government officials will be meeting in Orange Walk to discuss the price hikes implemented by the transport providers on Monday. According to a government press release, Deputy Prime Minister Johnny Briceño, who is acting Minister of Transport, Commissioner Glen Arthurs and Transport Board Chairman Dr. Gilly Canton, will join bus operators from across the country to hear their concerns on the issue. Arthurs has already informed the bus lines that their unilateral action was illegal. Today, we asked Minister Fonseca if government knew about the rate hikes in advance.

Ralph Fonseca, Minister of Budget Planning

“Our people, as I understand it–I’m not directly in the loop of course–but as I understand it, when the Ministry of Transport looked into the rates, there were some that they had increased that were above the ceiling. And that is what they’re trying to specify to the bus operators and get them to come back within the law. They will have to come back within the law.”

Janelle Chanona

“I asked that that way because at least one operator has told me this morning that they actually met the officials from the Ministry of Transport to tell them that they would in fact be raising rates. Therefore the release from the Department of Transport came as a little bit of a surprise to them.”

Ralph Fonseca

“Well, both of those things can happen. They can say that they’re going to raise rates and then when they raise the rates, they are above the expectancy of the ministry, because the ministry took for granted I guess that they would operate within the law. That’s all I think about…like I said, I’m not directly into all of that.”

Janelle Chanona

“Given the public response to the new rates, what’s the next step as far as how government is going to approach this situation?”

Ralph Fonseca

“Well government will insist of course that the operators operate with the law, within the ceiling that has been set up by the law.”

The meeting is set for 2:00 p.m. at the La Immaculada Credit Union Conference Room in Orange Town. As the parties head into those discussions, the Committee for Action on Public Utilities, CAPU, has called for a freeze in the new prices until bus operators can show the legal authority to justify the increases.

In related news–that does little to enhance the credibility of government’s position–Transport Commissioner Arthurs was strongly criticised in a report released today by the Commission of Inquiry into last year’s Tower Hill bus riot. The report, submitted to the Prime Minister by Commissioners Christopher Blackman, Sherman Zuniga and Father Lazarus Augustine, refers to a “systematic failure in the operation of the Department of transport” and concluded that Arthurs is not suited to hold the post of Commissioner of Transport and should be reassigned to another position in the public service.

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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