Bus fare subsidy is discrimination
Linton Gordon, Guest Columnist
The recently announced increases in fares payable to Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) by members of the public in the Kingston Metropolitan Region (which includes adjoining communities in St Catherine) has generated a lively debate, especially in the Kingston area.
There are a number of factors that are taken into considering in determining the fares being paid by members of the public who use the JUTC buses as their means of transportation.
The first is that the JUTC receives a subsidy from the Government of Jamaica as part of a policy of supporting the company so that it can charge a lower fare. This is an act of discrimination against the rest of Jamaicans in the rural areas who have to pay a non-subsidised fare to use public transportation.
The subsidy and support given to JUTC by the Government have allowed it to charge senior citizens a fare of $40 to travel on buses. At the same time, a senior citizen travelling from Great Pond to Ocho Rios in St Ann, a distance of about three kilometres, has to pay $240 on public transportation. While children pay $30 to travel on JUTC in Kingston, a child travelling from Charles Town in St Mary to school in Brown's Town in St Ann pays a fare of $310 one way.
A child living in Charles Town, St Mary, who attends school in Highgate in the same parish, pays a daily fare of $460 for the return trip from home to school and back. His colleague in Kingston, who is enjoying the subsidy provided to JUTC by the Government, pays $30, or $60 for the return trip
Andrew Holness should not be in Half-Way Tree demonstrating against these ridiculously low fares. He should be making the rounds in the rural areas and drumming up support for the Government to extend some form of assistance, especially to children in the rural areas, who are paying more than adults in Kingston to get to and from school.
We should all demand that the Government either cease providing subsidy for Kingstonians or provide it for everyone in Jamaica.
Kingstonians are not special. They are not better than us, and there is no evidence that they pay their taxes more than we do. There is, therefore, no basis for the discrimination.
In demanding a rollback of the fares, Mr Holness has caught himself in the position of demanding a more deplorable act of discrimination against rural folks and in favour of Kingstonians.
There is a cost to provide transportation. The buses JUTC uses are imported. The fuel is imported. The parts to keep them going are imported. The senior citizen paying $40 to travel on the bus is actually paying US$0.36. The child paying $30 is paying US$0.27 and the adult paying $120 is paying US$1.08.
These fares cannot keep the buses going. They cannot purchase new buses. They cannot purchase fuel. They cannot pay for repairs and they cannot pay salaries.
For Mr Holness to be demanding that they be reduced further is to ask the Government to provide free transportation for Kingstonians.
The decision by Mr Holness to demonstrate against the bus fares has exposed him as someone trapped in a thought process that is void of reasoning and from which logical thinking is absent.