Commuters beware, bus fares are going up! But the bus owners say it is not a hike in fares; instead, they are calling it realignment.
Now, that sounds like politician talk to us - but it's best we let them explain. Their spokesman did, at a bus association meeting this morning in Belize City.
Here's what that spokesman, Patrick Menzies had to say:
Patrick Menzies - Spokesperson, Belizean Bus Association
"For Belizeans out there to know, effective September 22, the price to travel to Belmopan will be $5 regular, $6 express."
Thomas Shaw - Chairman, Belizean Bus Association
"The $5 that we'll be charging from Belmopan to Belize City, it's not an increase because as the Minister to some commuters, it's an increase, but it's not. It's something that has been long overdue, and I think that most of our operators - if you looked in there a while ago - everybody is on board. We're united; everbody came to the consensus that we have got to move away from this selfish behavior of one person charging a dollar, and a next two dollars, cutting each other's throats. They all realize that we're losing money, so everybody is on board. Everybody agreed to go back to fares that were originally set, the 37 pointers that you're speakign about, you're perfectly in order, but for us to really achieve these goals, we cannot afford to be operating at a loss."
"You can't expect for the operators to keep on operating at the same price when their cost is outside. It's outside the ball park. The reality is the messed up buses - folks, let us look at this. Who tore the seats on the bus? It's not the operators; it's the commuters, so let's not talk about that. They need to be fixed yes, but parents, don't let your kids tear the bus seats; let's be real. So we're looking at that. We're asking the community - you don't need the best; you deserve the best. So let's get the best. As far as the tires on the buses and all those other things, you're right, but 1 tire is $800. So, how do we get $800? Well we did the calculation, and right now, to be able to make a profit, the bus owners should be charging 22 cents a mile - and they're charging 8 cents, or close to 10. So, what we're saying is that okay, let's make an agreement here. Since we've requested audience with the ministry and gotten none, and since the minister speaks to us through the media and not in person, that's the way we're responding. 1, we're glad you're here; 2, we respect what you're doingp; 3, Belize needs what you're doing; but 4, let's be realistic. The bus operators will be doing a price re-alignment, meaning that across the country, their different rates, wherever you go, they aren't realistic. It will be a price re-alignment. You will see different prices starting to change. We will be notifying Belizeans; it will be on the media. It will be on the buses, not the day after it goes up. That's not right; they should be notified before, and we will do that. We're saying that operators will not pay - will not pay - for the permits they just received at the rate they're being charged. They're being charged for last year and this year - and by the way, the permit expires on June of next year. They promised in the media - even yesterday - the minister said that they can go pay for their four-year permit; they're only giving them a 2-year permit, which started a year and a half a go. It makes no sense; so the operators are saying, 'We're not paying; thanks Minister'. We're saying work with us, and we want representation on the Board for September 27. We don't just want; we will be there."
"How will you get on the board? Do you expect the minister to just welcome you show up at the board?"
"Well actually, the problem is someone said that we should be more diplomatic; we were. We requested; we sent letters out. The only response we got was from the media. We got a couple of responses from Ms. Bailey, but none of them said that they are welcoming us to come unto the board. A meeting was scheduled, but that's about it, and not to be on the board. We're not saying that we want; we're saying that we will be on the board on that day.We must be on the board; that's what we're saying. And of course, that's a challenge."
"This sounds like there is going to be a showdown between you all and the Government."
"We're requesting that there not be, but if that's what they're asking for, then they may just get it."
We await a response from the Ministry of Transport...