EDITORIAL - JUTC must not retreat an inch
The most cynical among us may well be predicting that Garnett Roper and Colin Campbell will soon give up and that things will return to normal at the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), which is to say rampant thievery and indiscipline at the company.
This newspaper hopes not. Which is why we support the initiatives being pursued by the management of the state-owned bus company and are encouraged by Mr Roper's insistence this week that there will be no repeat, and his appeal to employees to support the efforts.
We hope that they will.
Indeed, we believe that the vast majority of the JUTC's more than 2,000 employees are hard-working, honest people who want to get on with their jobs as efficiently as possible. Their livelihoods, however, are being jeopardised by the few. Other Jamaicans, too, have an interest in the success of the project outlined by the JUTC chairman. For it is they who, literally, pay for the JUTC - and its failures - with their tax dollars.
The Jamaican capital has a far way to go before it has a public transportation system that would meet this newspaper's standard of decency and orderliness. But before the JUTC, for nearly two decades after the collapse of the Jamaica Omnibus Service up to the early 2000s, Kingston's public transport system was chaotic. Individually owned and controlled buses, ostensibly under the umbrella of structured franchises, raced around the city, apparently oblivious to rules and regulations. Using public transportation was a demeaning necessity for the vast majority of commuters.
The authorities, primarily through the JUTC, and with some, but insufficient success, have attempted to bring order and decency to the system. But it has been at a price. The com-pany has an accumulated deficit of J$12 billion and will lose perhaps another J$1 billion this year. This is outside an estimated J$16 billion in capital injection and another J$4 billion in cash-flow support.
This is unsustainable, especially in the context of Jamaica's dire economic circumstances. But old habits, especially bad ones, die hard.
To our pleasant and genuine surprise, how-ever, the company, under the leadership of Mr Roper and its managing director, Mr Campbell - the latter a politician from whom we expected little - has been taking tough decisions. They have been reversing the company's evolution into a political feeding tree. People on the payroll have to be employed to the company.
Management has also been attacking the thievery of spare parts, machinery and the company's money. Mr Roper reported that of 75 drivers fired so far this year, the majority were for theft. Some have gone before the courts.
Indeed, after the busting of a racket with the company's SmarterCard cashless system, revenues increased by J$3 million a day. But as loopholes are plugged, others are detected and have to be fixed. The managers must persevere.
A profitable JUTC, or one that loses substantially less money, is good for taxpayers. A decent, efficient bus service is good for commuters and the economy. But we are struck by Mr Roper's hope not only to change the culture of the JUTC, but having it as the reflection of a new "culture of the city and of the country".
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