PLP proposes fuel rebate alternative to taxi fare increase
The Opposition is calling on Government to reconsider plans to increase taxi fares by 25 percent, claiming that it could hit cabbies in the pocket by driving down demand.
The hike was announced by Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell last week following consultation with industry bosses who pointed out that the rate — which is set by Government — had not been increased in almost seven years.
But Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott said that many customers who regard taxis as “an essential service” would not be able to afford the increase, which in the long term could prove counterproductive.
Instead, Mr Scott suggested an alternative appraoch which “balances putting more money in taxi driver's pockets with the need to protect an already economically under siege consumer” — by giving drivers a rebate on gas purchases.
Admitting that the proposal was “not an ideal scenario”, Mr Scott said his plan was “a more balanced and forward-thinking solution where all may benefit”.
“Bermudians simply cannot afford yet another OBA driven increase in the cost of, what for many of us, is an essential service — not while our salaries continue to stagnate or be slashed,” Mr Scott said.
“Bermuda's taxi rates are already considered expensive by both visitors and locals. Adding an additional 25 percent to that will just exacerbate the issue.
“Furthermore, this increase will act as a disincentive for many consumers and will inevitably drive down the demand for taxis from both locals and visitors alike. The OBA promised that they would implement policies that would lead to job creation, contain inflation and price increases while stimulating the economy. Their current approach falls way short of fulfilling that promise and in the interest of collaboration, we hope that they will reconsider this scheme.”
Mr Scott said he had spoken to several taxi owners and operators who feared that the increase could be counter-productive by reducing demand.
“From our meetings with taxi owner/operators, we believe that there can be a more balanced and forward thinking solution where all may benefit,” he said.
“We propose the implementation of a fuel rebate programme for taxi drivers. Receipts for fuel purchases would be presented to the tax commissioners office, verified and a check for the amount due would be presented to the taxi driver.
“While not an ideal scenario, it does allow drivers to have more money in their pocket and doesn't force the Bermudian consumer to to take yet another hit in the pocket book. We hope that the OBA will join us and collaborate on a solution that doesn't negatively affect the consumer.”
Last night Bermuda Taxi Owners and Operators Association president Derek Young gave a lukewarm response to the proposal, saying that it “nowhere touches the surface on the financial hardships we have and still endure”.
“The taxi industry is willing to work with any entity looking to assist in finding ways to minimise costs to our customers, particularly our Bermudian people,” Mr Young said.
“However taxi drivers have been suffering for a very long time and a rebate in gas is just one relief that will assist us but nowhere touches the surface on the financial hardships we have and still endure.
“I appreciate and applaud the suggestion put forward by Mr Scott. However I would hope that any gas rebate would be discounted at the pump and not by filing at the tax commissioner's office. I am hoping that this rate increase issue is resolved where drivers and the public come to a happy medium.
“I do feel that the people of Bermuda do realise the financial pain of the taxi man and that some sort of increase in rate is certainly needed.”
Mr Young stressed that, while a 25 percent increase in fares was well above inflation, rates had remained flat for years, and an average journey would see only a minimal increase.
“As I stated previously and for clarity, a 25 percent increase on a $10 ride makes that ride come to $12.50 under the new rate,” he said.