Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Gov't can display more regulatory balance

Published:Monday | September 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM


'Scotia Group reports hefty profit growth' (TVJ News, September 14, 2018).

'Transport operators demand fare increase - Seek 100 per cent raise amid steep operating costs' Gleaner, September 18, 2018.

'The real golden rule is: The man with the gold makes the rules' (Dr Lloyd Quarrie, medical practitioner).

'Jackass seh, the world nuh level' (Jamaican proverb).

Does the Government have any right or role in regulating prices in a free-market economy? Customers' concerns regarding some fees commercial banks impose on their accounts and to transact businesses have been downplayed by some experts, that Government has no role in fixing or regulating prices in a free-market economy.

If we accept this principle or argument, then on what basis (for more than three decades) have successive administrations (via the Transport Authority) been fixing the fares transport operators can charge commuters?

The Transport Authority fixes the fare that public transport operators can charge for a specific distance, even though the terrain, road and other conditions of the different routes often vary considerably.


Significant Increases


Moreover, even when there are significant increases in operating costs - from fuel prices, auto parts and repair services - route taxi operators, unlike other private enterprises, cannot adhere to basic business principles and increase fares without breaking the law. Public transport operators have to formally request an increase, and oftentimes apply pressure through withdrawal of their services, in order to obtain any adjustment in fares.

The Government may argue that price fixing in the transport sector is crucial to establish order and protect commuters. And there is some merit in this argument. In every sector, there are some members who can be described as unscrupulous and rapacious. And worthy of note, 'rapacious' was the term once used by a prominent official of the Bank of Jamaica to describe the action of some banks.

Various banking fees have become a major revenue booster for commercial banks. More and higher banking fees automatically increase profits for commercial banks. And it does not take a rocket scientist or Rhodes Scholar to understand that this also means more tax revenues for the Government.

The banking and transport sectors are crucial to the economy and one can only appeal to the Government for a greater sense of balance and consistency when dealing with both sectors, and to exercise its power and regulate commercial banks more, to protect the public.

Daive R. Facey