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Feb 20, 2023

B.B.A. Issues Ultimatum to Ministry of Transport, But What’s Next for the Industry?

Tonight, a final demand has been made by disgruntled bus operators who are calling for the removal of the chairman of the Transport Board.  It’s the latest development in a series of events taking place within the embattled public transportation industry since the permit for Ritchie’s bus will not be renewed going forward.  Earlier today, flanked by several executives of the Belize Bus Association, President Thomas Shaw addressed the media. The head of the B.B.A., who also sits on the Transport Board, raised a number of issues regarding the runs that have been given to Floralia Limited.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Ewart Metzgen

Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belize Bus Association

“We have two things we are demanding of the Department of Transport and the minister.  First and foremost is the removal of the chair of the Transport Board within seventy-two hours. He’s part and parcel of the problem.  He’s the mastermind behind this Floralia issue.  Da he gaan find dehn, da he gaan ker dehn.  Ih seh it with ih own mouth and he da part and parcel ah di problem, along with other members eena di Department of Transport.”


An ultimatum issued by the Belize Bus Association this morning, is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between stakeholders in the public transportation sector and the Department of Transport.  The BBA’s call for the removal of Byron Sanchez as chair of the Transport Board is one of several issues raised during a press conference earlier today.  That forceful request has been met with cold water by the Minister of Transport.


Rodwell Ferguson

Rodwell Ferguson, Minister of Transport

“They don’t run the transportation department.  I am the minister responsible and I have a team that works with me to man the transportation department and I was given a mandate by Plan Belize, by the cabinet of the country, and by the study by IDB to improve the bus industry over a period of time.”


Enhancing the existing mass transit system requires a significant investment from bus operators, many of whom do not have the financial resources to upgrade their fleet.  Ewart Metzgen, Secretary of the Belize Bus Association, says that a memorandum of understanding has been entered into between the Department of Transport and the National Bank of Belize. The lending institution, however,  requires a seat on the Transport Board.


Ewart Metzgen

“What the bank wanted from the department was a seat on the Transport Board in order to protect the investment needed to give to operators and to protect that the bank would be able to get back its money. We are also demanding that the National Bank gets the seat on the Transport Board when the Transport Board is reformed.  This will also give the security to bus operators and it will also give the other banking and lending institutions in this country a peace of mind, knowing that there is someone from the banking industry that sits on that board to protect the investments being made by our local banks.”


According to Transport Minister Rodwell Ferguson, the upgrading of buses should have commenced at the end of last year.  An extension has since been granted considering financial state of the industry.


Rodwell Ferguson

“Initially, I told them that I wanted to see the transformation begin in December 2022.  I am very cognizant of the fact that they don’t have the funds to go and do the investment.  So we have now rolled out that by the end of 2024, all buses right not must be changed and there is a tier system.  We have the economy run, where I think you can have your bus for up to twenty years.  We have the premier run where you can have your bus up to ten years and you have the village run where you can have your bus for up to twenty-five years.  So even if you get an economy run and you buy a 2015 bus, by 2020 that bus no longer should be on the roads of Belize.”


The Ministry of Transport has rescinded permits that were granted to several operators whose fleets include buses that are no longer roadworthy.  On the other hand, the President of the Belize Bus Association is also challenging government to put in place the necessary infrastructure to complement the pending requirements.


Thomas Shaw

Thomas Shaw, President, Belize Bus Association

“They said they want to upgrade.  I have a document here that I sent to them and this document says, we were talking about the high rise in fuel, we’re talking about better terminals, we’re talking about bus stops.  At the end of the day, he is giving us a mandate, but as much as the people deserve better service or newer buses, you must understand that you need to put the infrastructure in place.  You cannot just be telling the operators and intimidating them.  A lot of operators out there now are afraid because nobody knows who is next.  Operators permits are being cut left, right and center.


As for the threat of industrial action, should the demands of the BBA not be met, Minister Ferguson dares bus operators to proceed.


Isani Cayetano

“They have now outrightly said that if they don’t get what they want, including the removal of the transport chair within the seventy-two hour period, that you can expect some kind of action to take place.”


Rodwell Ferguson

“We’ll tell them to proceed, that is their right as Belizeans.  Tell them to proceed.  We have replacement buses if they want to do that, so tell them to proceed.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.


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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