Gov’t cuts bus fare for elderly
KINGSTON – The Government yesterday yielded to howls of disapproval and cut the proposed JA$60 (BDS$107) bus fare for senior citizens by a third to JA$40 (BDS$0.71), but did not budge on the regular fare of JA$120 (BDS$2.13) for adults and concessionary rate of JA$30 for children and the disabled.
The new fares to travel on buses operated by the State-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) were announced on Wednesday by Transport and Works Minister Dr Omar Davies and will become effective tomorrow.
The unexpected announcement of the bus fare hike drew condemnation from the parliamentary Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) as well as a wide cross section of society, who called the move a wicked and heartless act that would dig a deeper hole in the pockets of the already overburdened elderly population, a number of whom have no fixed income or substantial pension.
However, following a meeting with Davies, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Horace Dalley, senior officials of both ministries and the leadership of various groups representing pensioners and senior citizens and public sector workers, the decision was made to cut the amount added to the fare for senior citizens by JA$20. Davies made the announcement after consultation with the prime minister and his other Cabinet colleagues.
The transport ministry, in a release, said yesterday that an agreement was forged that there will be consultations, beginning immediately, on various transportation challenges facing public sector workers, involving the Ministry of Finance and the public sector, representatives of the workers and the senior leadership of the JUTC.
Despite the announced decrease in fare for the elderly, the JLP was adamant that it would continue with its protest against the fare increase on Monday.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, in a release to the media, said the party was maintaining its position and readiness to take a stand against increases in bus fares.
“What is clear is that the Government does not understand the financial pressure that Jamaicans are suffering at this time. While the senior citizens’ fare might have been the worst of their planned increases, the burden on families that will be caused by the other planned increased fares on adults, students and the disabled, are still too much at this time,” said Holness..
Government, said the Opposition leader, has placed itself on a slippery slope as it has increased fees and taxes while cutting public expenditure.
“This will ultimately result in a reduction of their standard of living and ultimately the impoverishment of all Jamaicans. The Government must be made to understand that the people have reached their limit,” said Holness.
Among persons in attendance at yesterday’s meeting with Davies and Dalley were Jamaica Civil Service Association President O’Neil Grant, and Vice-President Robert Chung; Helene Davis-Whyte, vice-president of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions; general secretary of the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers, Charles Jones; president of the Jamaica Government Pensioners’ Association; and Syringa Marshall Burnett, chairman, National Council of Senior Citizens.
The JUTC was represented by Chairman Garnett Roper and Colin Campbell, managing director. (Jamaica Observer)