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Opposition wants subsidy for transport operators

Published:Friday | November 6, 2015 | 3:05 PM

A JAMAICAN politician is proposing that the Government create a special facility to allow taxi operators to purchase new vehicles at discounted prices and be granted lower insurance rates.

Robert Montague, the chairman of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), who is campaigning to be re-elected member of parliament for Western St Mary, yesterday gave notice of his intention to have the motion debated in the Senate.

Arguing that there are approximately 25,000 unlicensed vehicles that operate in the transport system, Montague said that the Government should review the licensing process with a view to making it easier for taxi operators to get road licences. He further told the Senate that the average age of vehicles being used as taxis is eight years old and that the Government should seek to help operators get fresh stock.

"The cost of operating each unit will increase as the age of the unit increases," Montague argued, while adding that older vehicles emit more greenhouse gases and are more prone to malfunction.

Montague's motion came a week after three opposition members of parliament proposed far-reaching interventions for the transport sector, calling for the Government to provide subsidised tyres and reduced import duties for the industry, as well as to release impounded vehicles into the custody of operators to be used as taxis.

Tyre concession

Karl Samuda, the opposition spokesman on industry, said the cost of tyres "poses a major obstacle and a threat" to the viability of the transport sector.

"I wonder if, by chance, the minister would give consideration to supporting a call, which I am sure I have heard them say, for a special concession on import duties on tyres," Samuda said in the House of Representatives last Tuesday.

Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, said that while he was finance minister from 2007 to 2011, transport operators engaged him about the need for an upgrading of their fleet.

Shaw said he has suggested to them that "once everybody becomes regularised, the Government would consider granting a special concession in terms of duty rates so that the fleet of taxis can be upgraded generally and so that our people can be transported in a more comfortable and civilised way".

He suggested that this should be given serious consideration by the Government.

Pearnel Charles, the member of parliament for North Central St Catherine, said that the Government should release 3,000 cars, which have been impounded.

"I am calling on parliamentarians to reject the idea of turning police on these poor people who use their redundancy money to purchase a car in the transport system. And the reason they can't get the red plate is because they can't pay the $190,000 for insurance," Charles said.