Bus operators are agitating for a fare increase following the recent hike in fuel prices. But have not yet made a formal submission to the proper authorities for an increase.
Fiji Labour Party asks what has happened to the report of the 8-member high powered committee set up last October to review bus fares?
“The committee appointed by government was directed to recommend a new fare structure to be introduced in January 2018,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
“We understand it began public consultations on the subject in early November, travelling throughout the country. But nothing has been heard of since regarding the committee’s report following these consultations,” he said.
One wonders whether this report is being shelved until after the elections.
Is there a deal between government and the bus operators to wait until after the elections to impose a higher fare structure?
Members of this high powered committee included Reserve Bank Governor Ariff Ali. FRCA CEO Visvanath Das, Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma, Consumer Council CEO Premila Kumar, Fiji Bus Operators Association president Richard Lal.
The bus operators are citing recent increases in fuel price as justification for higher fares.
However, fuel prices have been fluctuating for several years now. When fuel prices fell to their lowest levels last year, there was no consequential decrease in bus fares even though FLP had called for a fare review downwards.
“We must also realise that workers no longer get a cost of living adjustment to their wages so why should bus fares be pegged to increases in fuel price?” Mr Chaudhry asked.
We note that the fare structure approved by LTA in 2009 was heavily loaded in favour of the bus operators. It created widespread controversy, including scathing criticisms aired by the Consumer Council, ECREA and the Fiji Consumers Association.
With the new stage markings approved by LTA, bus fares shot up from between 13% to 65% because of the merger of stages.
The effect of this was that a person travelling a distance of 2 kilometres ended up paying the same fare (70c) as another travelling more than twice that distance.
“These lopsided merges have reportedly worked against the travelling public,” said Mr. Chaudhry.
“Bus fares are a major cost component to the commuting public since both ordinary workers and adult students use buses regularly. Most of them will not be able to sustain an increase, considering the already high cost of living,” Mr Chaudhry said.