Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Transport ministry firm on solving problems in public sector

Published:Friday | October 18, 2019 | 12:07 AM

The Ministry of Transport and Mining uses this medium to respond to an article published in The Gleaner, October 16, 2019, by Andre Wright, associate editor titled ‘Will public transport survive Bobby’s bomb?’

The ministry thanks Mr Wright for his summation of Minister Robert Montague’s 16-point proposal for the public transportation system, however belated it may be, and uses this medium to clarify a number of assertions made by Mr Wright.

First, on May 30, 2018, when Minister Montague rose from his seat in Gordon House, it was in a bid to provide alternate strategies for a beleaguered public transportation system with insufficient units to provide reliable transportation for Jamaicans, not only in the Corporate Area, but also in the rural communities, or the nook and cranny of the island.

This inadequacy of public transportation had been identified by the auditor general as a contributor to the growth of illegal public transportation in Jamaica. In fact, in a performance audit conducted by the auditor general in October 2017, it was noted that “an inadequate supply of PPVs may have fostered the prevalence of illegal operators”.

The minister’s 16-point proposal was not intended to be “conventional”, neither are they the action of an “opportunistic and populist… seeking to ingratiate the State and, perhaps, pick up a few votes from the sufferer dem and ghettos yutes”, but rather, they were crafted to elicit feedback from all Jamaicans on ways to fashion a more “people-centred” public transportation system.

In this regard, the Ministry of Transport and Mining, in collaboration with the Transport Authority, has hosted four national consultations, a public transportation conference, and a number of stakeholder engagements island-wide to solicit feedback from the general public and key industry players.

The ministry has also proceeded to engage The University of the West Indies (UWI) in a transport landscape study which will provide additional empirical foundations for further improvements to the sector.

In fact, the liberalisation of the public transportation system was one of several strategies to improve access to legal public transportation across the nation. This against the background of a scarcity of licenced public transportation units, children being stuffed into the trunks of unlicensed vehicles, and a spate of rapes and robberies involving predominantly ‘white plate’ vehicles.

GOAL OF THE LIBERALIsATION

The goal of the liberalisation was to utilise readily available private operators to aide in the expansion of commuter’s access to safe, reliable and affordable public transportation services. This is by no means a novel strategy but one utilised worldwide to supplement well-needed resources where governments do not have the fiscal resources to provide same. Were the government of Jamaica to provide this well-need service, it would be so expensive that the ordinary people of the nation could not afford it.

It is therefore unfortunate that Mr Wright should interpret the increase in access to public transportation by ordinary Jamaicans as “the most explosive public order disaster Jamaicans have ever heard”.

It must be accepted that there is a general culture of disorder in the country that is not confined to the public passenger vehicle system, but may be more visible in this sector based on the profile it occupies. This is not lost on the Ministry of Transport and Mining.

It is for this very reason that the Transport Authority has implemented the suspension and revocation policy, which is among other strategies – pending legislative amendments – to address recalcitrant behaviour in the sector.

The Ministry of Transport and Mining remains resolute in exploring unconventional strategies that can be beneficial to ordinary Jamaicans wherever they are in the nation.

The Ministry of Transport & Mining. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.