The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

The van drivers have called for a stoppage on Monday 12 October. Everyone will say rightly so. Their vans are being wrecked by the condition of the roads. Not only that, but their income must be drastically cut because their number of journey a day must be cut by at least 25 per cent.

They have been made promises in the past, which have been broken. They are now being promised that when the airport is finished, the airport asphalt plant will produce enough to repair the road system. That, of course, is yet another lie; another story that they believe the van drivers want to hear.

They owe so much money, and they will have an even bigger shortfall when the airport opens. They have to pre-pay for tar product from Trinidad, where it comes from. They do not have the money now and will not have the money after the next general elections to buy the product.

The drivers should wake up and realise this ULP government has no regard for them whatsoever. They are being lied to and they are being used. I hope that they practice solidarity, which Gonsalves loves, except in this case he will just hate it if the van drivers big up and stick together as one.

They should make the following demands: fuel coupons for half price fuel, tax-free imports for vehicle parts brought and ordered through their union, reduced cost of annual vehicle road license, and tax-free imports of replacement vans. That is the least that they should be asking for and the least they should settle for.

The van drivers supply one of the most important services to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They work for small fares and have been stopped from getting proper increases in those fares. As an important service, they should be looked after properly and they must keep in mind that there will be a new bus service between Argyle airport and Kingstown and back. It will be cheap and subsidised, and will almost certainly affect the van owners.

So it’s not just the road repairs they should be fighting for, it’s their whole future and being able to feed their families.

I implore the divers and owners to stick together as one and allow their union to do its job. Remember anything they are promised by this government could have been given to them every year for the last 14 years, to come now with empty promises is making the drivers look like a bunch of fools.

About $25 million dollars of government goods are being given away as incentives to vote for the ULP, there was a better use for that money and the drivers should be really mad about that, rightly so, they should demand that stops.

Peter Binose

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

4 replies on “Vincentian minibus operators rebel”

  1. The most important thing the government should do, an issue you curiously omit, is to remove maximum van fare rates for different routes. Let the law of supply-and-demand determine fare rates. Everyone will be better off.

    Also you talk about a cheap and subsidized bus service from and to Argyle, uncritically implying that there would ever be enough traffic to justify such a service or that Argyle will ever be a functioning airport.

  2. This is one area in which I am really disappointed in the Government. They have failed to keep our internal roads in good repair. For over twenty five years both Political Parties have failed when it comes to fixing the interior roadways. They only tend to service those that leads to their houses and the major highways. If you want to grow this country we must fix the infrastructure to support this growth i.e. Roads, bridges, airports and seaports must be properly built and maintained.

    The other issue is that customs tariff on vehicles are ridiculously high. How can you levy 110% duty on a vehicle based on the Cost and Freight (CIF), which exceeds the initial cost of the vehicle. This is primarily one of the reasons why we have so much old vehicles being imported that cannot stand up yo the roads. Passenger buses and taxis should only be charged a 15% duty rate. These are public service transports. High duties, high fuel and maintenance cost would ultimately trickle down to the passenger whom in most cases do not even have a job.

    This is how I think the duties on vehicles should be levied. Public service transportation being imported should be charged at 15%, Every House hold should be entitled to one vehicle at 25%. Every vehicle after this should be charged based on the size of the engine, anything under two liters 30%; two (2) to three (3) litres 35%; three(3) to four (4) litres 40 % and anything above four(4) litres 45%.

    When I look at the duty structure in SVG I can only come to two conclusions. First, it was design so that certain goods are out of the reach of poor people and second as a necessary revenue stream, which the government solely depend on. These are some of the reasons why I cannot understand poor people supporting these political parties that seems not to have them at the heart of their manifesto or even considering them when these revenue streams are developed. If you want to service public sector expenditure we most cut all wasteful spending and shrink the government so we can have sufficient funds to fix the roads and bridges. I bet you all Government Ministers pay minimum duties on their vehicles.

    Finally, before you import a vehicle you should be able to determine the exact fee you would pay based on the initial cost, freight, duties and brokerage fees. I have heard about the inconsistencies in the duty rates. Some people are charged very little while some people are charged very high. This issue where customs revalue your vehicle should not be accepted unless the importer cannot provide an authentic receipt. If the customs officer believes that the receipt is not authentic he must first take steps to determine its authenticity, and where this cannot be ascertained he can then revalue the vehicle. I know for a fact that many customs officers accept bribes. Some people can purchase a vehicle for less than one months salary in Japan or the USA so is it so expensive to import a vehicle into SVG.

    Lets fix this country with transparent and accountable governance where every Vincentian can benefit whether you are rich or poor or Caucasian, Indian, Carib or black. The government must find a balance that would serve our residents well and generate a revenue stream that can service public sector expenditure. All annual budgets must be balanced.

  3. I live in St Vincent two months of the year. Your infrastructure is a really low priority. Your roads are the pits. I love your subsidized transit system, but it doesn’t work well north leeward or north windward. You share cabs either place to get to town. Your roads are damaging every vehicle on them. You require a lot of money to invest in your road system. It’s a volcanic island. Your roads are going to be very expensive. You need some kind of tribunal to review your transit system, to make it work better, maybe create zones, so drivers don’t have to wait so long in town for riders before they do that return trip up island. Here in Ontario where I live the other ten months of the year, we have too much infrastructure. You could double your investment in roads. You could double the cost of bus fares. They haven’t increased in a very long time. You could increase taxes on gasoline. You can raise revenues for roads and bus drivers. When I first started staying on your island a few years ago, I couldn’t actually travel north windward, because no vehicle could travel that road. Now you have a new road north windward. We use a lot of C4 here to try to have a straight level road, that reduces a lot of travel time, and tragedies. Your roads have a lot of cars and buses, but you’re not raising and investing much money in building or maintaining those roads. I know you’re still rebuilding bridges destroyed in the Christmas floods. I was there. That money should have already been there, just in case of such a catastrophe. Norway has a $1 trillion dollar fund accumulated from oil revenues, for the future. You should start such a fund for future Christmas floods..

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