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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Over the last 6 months, we have been closely tracking the steady increases in the pump prices of fuel. Just last month, we told you about three price hikes that the Briceno Government tried to sneak in without any public announcement.

And now, with the instability created by the war in Ukraine, world oil prices have skyrocketed - reaching a 14 year high yesterday.

And before pump prices head for that dreaded 15 dollar mark here in Belize, bus operators are saying they can't take any more. They today warned commuters countywide that in the very near future, they will stage a national shutdown of public transportation. They say that this is a very last resort and an act of protest that will hurt their already reduced earnings.

But, they have been in negotiations with the Transport Ministry for an increase in fares - and because that stalled yesterday, they are now pushing the eject button. Today, the executive of the Belize Bus Association spoke to 7News on the reason for the impending protest action:

Ewart Metzgen - Secretary, Belize Bus Association
"You guys in the media well know that for some years, since 2018, we have been trying to negotiate some sort of relief when it comes to fuel for bus operators with the past administration. And since this new administration has come in over a year, it has been to no avail. As you all know, the cost of fuel keeps going up. It doesn't just affect the bus operators, but everybody, even yourself, who drives. It has reached a breaking point for bus operators now, where we can no longer sustain to absorb the losses in fuel costs. Yesterday, we had a meeting with both ministers in Transport, Minister Rodwell Ferguson and Mr. Usher, along with the CEO and the CTO, and I think 2 other members from the Department of Transport. Several issues were discussed there, and the burning issue was the cost of fuel, and how it is impacting the operations of bus operators. We had proposed a price hike. I say this that we know everybody is feeling the crunch, everybody in the country, we have exhausted every avenue of sitting down and talking to these people in the Ministry about getting relief for the bus operators. We have passed through the 22 months of the pandemic. When other industries were being given subsidies or some sort of relief by GOB, the bus industry was given nothing. But, we have now this problem of the high fuel costs. We can no longer sustain it, and we spoke to the Ministers, the CEO, the CTO and we had asked for a 25% increase. This will take us where bus operators will start breaking even. We were told point-blank by the Minister that this can't happen, that bus operators can't raise the price, that it needs to go through Cabinet. I then asked the Minister when can that happen? When can Cabinet hear our plea? He's telling us that it can't happen before 2 weeks."

So, when should commuters expect and prepare for the major inconvenience of a national shutdown? That's what we asked the Secretary of the BBA:

Ewart Metzgen - Secretary, Belize Bus Association
"No operator of the BBA can tell you that they can save any money, that they can have any money deposited in the bank, to say if something goes wrong with their buses. We are fortunate at the BBA because we have one parts store, the Truck Parts of Belize, that most of us from the BBA go to get our parts for our buses. If it was not for that family that owns Truck Parts, most of us bus operators would have been out of business because they extend a credit line to us. Our sincere apologies to the Belizean people but we are where we are, not because we want to be here, and we're not doing what we're about to do because we want to do it. This is the last resort. This is something we never wanted to reach, but we are making no further movements with the authorities. We can only ask their understanding. Fuel has gone up almost 3 dollars and 15 cents or so, within the last 6 weeks or so, which is an increase of over 38% increase in fuel cost in the last 6 weeks to 2 months. A lot of people out there - I know that people think that bus operators are making a lot of money, and that's not the case. Two-thirds of what we make goes back into fuel. We're not talking about paying the drivers and the conductors, putting oil or whatever else you need, none of that. As operators, we will hurt also because when we shut down, there will be no movement of buses."

Daniel Ortiz
"...meaning no earnings for you either."

Ewart Metzen
"Bus operators will earn nothing also because we will just shut down."

Daniel Ortiz
"Okay, but when will this shutdown take place? Is it effective immediately? Is it in the near future? You're playing your cards close to the chest, sir."

Ewart Metzen
"When it happens, it happens. We will tell no one when it will happen because us saying when will do this will give them time to prepare for us."

This evening, we spoke via telephone with Rodwell Ferguson, the Minister responsible for Transport. He told us that he met yesterday with members of the Belize Bus Association, and he made the point to them that while he understands and appreciates their plea and its justifications, only the Cabinet can approve an increase in their fares.

He told us that he has committed to tabling the BBA's concerns at the next Cabinet Meeting.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

Members of the Belize Bus Association (BBA) are preparing to bring a halt to the public transportation after negotiations with the Department of Transport have stalled. The group has been hoping to get the green light from the ministry to increase the bus fares in light of the steadily increasing fuel prices. Negotiations have not been moving as efficiently as they would like and so the BBA has decided to initiate a national shut down of the commuters' buses. Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo spoke to the Secretary of the BBA, Ewart Metzgen.

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