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Feb 27, 2023

Small Bus Operators in the North Raise Concerns about Merging with Bigger Companies

It was one of several points discussed at last week’s meeting between the Belize Bus Association executive and a Ministry of Transport team, in an effort to upgrade the transport industry – merging the bus companies that run in the three regions to come up with only two companies in each. What it meant was that the smaller companies would have to become part of the two bigger companies that would run in each of those regions. But while that may be possible in the west and the south, it is easier said than done in the north, where there are over fifty bus companies competing. During a B.B.A. meeting on Sunday, it was reportedly revealed that already, one of the bigger companies is trying to muscle the smaller ones out of business. The problem, according to B.B.A. Secretary Ewart Metzgen, is two-fold: most of the bus operators are not in a position to merge because of pre-existing bank notes and mortgages they are already committed to with their current fleets.  Secondly, the industry in the north is heavily politicized.


On the phone: Ewart Metzgen

On the phone: Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belize Bus Association

“They’re saying that they’re not being afford a chance to provide for their families and most of them gone and dehn do the investments what they wahn do with the buses and they just made investments to buy the buses they have from banks, some of them mortgage off their homes, land, they can’t go back to the bank and say, “Well, um, we need more money to buy up-to-date bus.” And also the topic that came up that was mentioned to us when we met with them last Wednesday was that come 2030, the transport system will be shift shifting again to our electric buses. So we have seven years more to go all full electric. The members are saying why not use the buses we’re using right now or upgrade them, newer models, upgrade them because come 2030 we have to goh spend wa whole big lotta money again di buy electric bus. And in seven years we wa can’t pay back are about no two hundred and fifty, three- hundred- thousand-dollar-loan for a bus, especially larger companies. If you have a fleet of twenty-four, thirty buses, you di look pahn wa investment of maybe eight to ten million dollars. So what we’re saying is that wi need fi goh back pahn the table and mek wi look pahn this thing seriously. Dehn di move faster than what the consultants are recommending. Dehn di jum the gun with wa lotta stages weh the consultant di tell dehn how fi goh. And that the smaller operators are objecting to the mergers because we already have one large company in the north threatening small operators, di tell dehn she dehn done have agreement to the government that dehn wa be one of the big operators eena the north an dehn dig oh to the small operators and di tell den well ah wa give yoh ten thousand (dollars) fi yoh run. Yoh either tek it or yoh still wa lose it eena the end. And a lot of small operators that showed up at our meeting yesterday from the north came with that complaint. They really want dehn define what to do because like we told them in that meeting. The north wa be one ah the hardest area fi fix because it’s too political. Everybody weh da wa bus operator eena the north know wa minister, or da some minister help dehn fi get dehn run weh dehn got. Da only one thing that we could say we agreed upon and our members are good with that, and that is the person from the bank being on the (Transport) board and having the Bus Association having another member on the Transport Board. The only part with the second member on the Transport Board, the B.B.A was saying that person was going to go there as an observer, and only when Mr. Shaw can’t make a meeting, then that person have voting rights. What our members voted for yesterday was that if we sent the member, the member how to have all voting rights, because he dig oh fi represent also along with Mr. Shaw. And the person that we have asked to represent the bus association has over fifty years experience in the industry. He accepted yesterday that he will be that person and, and that person is Mr Leo Batty. He will bring a wealth of knowledge to the Transport Board.”

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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