Minibus Operators in Guyana: Fear and Funniness

Minibus Operators in Guyana: Fear and Funniness

Jun 11, 2018 Kaieteur News – Columnists, Peeping Tom

Guyana can be a funny place. Imagine minibus drivers are protesting the increase in fuel prices and are calling for an increase in fares.

The East Coast drivers kicked off the protest a few days ago. They assembled at a location. Later, there was a blockage of the railway embankment road, even though there was no mention of who did this. It was said that the reason for the blockage of the road was to prevent those buses who were working from doing so. Another group was calling on the government to drop the prices of fuel or increase fares, even if it was by $20.Now, the minibus operators do not need to protest to raise transportation fares.   [Note: US$1 = appox. G$200]

They have the power to do so. Fares are not regulated in Guyana. Yet, unlike in the past when operators increased prices which some consumers refused to pay, this time the transportation providers seem to want the government to approve the fare increase. Operators in Berbice are said to be calling for a 40% increase.

Fear is the reason why the operators are not raising their fares but waiting to see what the government will do. They are fearful of the reaction of the government, consumers and their own operators.

The government has not signaled that it is going to reduce its take on fuel taxes so that the prices can be reduced at the pump. And so instead of giving the government an ultimatum, the transportation operators are playing this funny game of calling on government to either drop the price of fuel or to increase prices.

They know that fares are unregulated. But they are fearful of a backlash from government. Some of them fear the tax man coming after them, after they claimed that they used to make $5000 per day but are only taking home as low as $500 per day.

If they were making $5000 per day, it means their monthly income would be around $150,000 per month, which means that they should be paying as much as $30,000 in taxes or $360,000 per year in taxes. But many of them are not, and so they are timid in setting their own fares based on what they say is the increased cost of the service they are providing. They want the government to set the fares. They ought to know this will not happen, and yet they are protesting.

They are afraid that the Special Organized Crime Unit can be set loose on them. So they want the government to do what they cannot do. This is all a big joke. They are fearful of police harassment.

In Brazil, truckers are engaged in protests over the price of petrol. They forced the government to drop the price in that country. But in Guyana, the minibus and hire car operators want the government to drop fares or drop the price at the pump.

The transportation operators are calling for the government to act, because they are afraid of being undercut by their fellow operators who may be prepared to continue to charge the same fares. This is why there was that temporary road blockage by unknown forces. This was because others have to be coerced into joining the protest action.

Guyana is a cut-throat country. There are some operators who would not protest because they see the opportunity to make an extra buck when their fellow operators are on the protest lines. And this is one of the reasons why the operators who have the power to increase fares want the government to act first.

The operators are also fearful of consumers. During previous attempts to increase fares, some consumers stood their ground and refused to pay the increase. This forced the operators in turn to ask their customers to pay the fares upon entry.

The protests by the transportation operators are going to fizzle because of this funniness and their fearfulness on their part. One thing they can expect. The government will be looking carefully at what they are doing, and if the situation escalates, they will meet with them and ask them to hold off while some multi-agency task force meets with them to decide on the way forward. That process will end up being protracted just like the negotiations between the teachers’ union and the government.

Once there is no unity within the ranks of transportation operators, once they are fearful of the government, they should simply put their tails between their legs and accept the inevitable – there is nothing they can do about increases. This is Guyana and fear stalks the land.

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