Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies has revealed that the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is carrying an $11-billion debt burden.
According to Davies, the debt includes $10 billion in taxes and statutory deductions which have not been paid over and unpaid pension fund contributions.
Accident claims account for another $1 billion.
"The JUTC is an equal opportunity debter," Davies said.
"They owe everybody, they don't discriminate," he continued.
He said he is clear in his mind how to attempt to cure some of the ills plaguing the JUTC but he will delay making announcements until he is given the all clear by Cabinet.
But Davies has indicated that he will need a consistent subsidy from the finance ministry.
Davies has also said he has identified some mysteries at the company, one of them being that there are more drivers than buses, while the overtime bill is huge.
"It cannot continue," Davies said.
Karl Samuda, the Opposition spokesman on transport, works and infrastructure development, today charged that the state-owned company is losing $2 million per day.
"Every day that the buses roll out it (JUTC) is losing money and there is no sight that it is about to abated," Samuda said.
The North Central St Andrew MP, in opening a debate on a private member's motion he brought to the House, said illegal operators are undermining the viability of the JUTC.
"It is a very technical and a very tedious exercise to track down all the violators," Samuda said.
Noting that the total infusion of subsidies over the past five years is $5.7 billion Samuda said this cannot continue.
"What is needed is political will to ensure that the regulations are enforced," Samuda said.
He argued that transport minister will have to either grant a fare increase to the JUTC or dip into tax payers' pockets for subsidies.