Coin shortage eased but no rollback of toll on North South Highway

Thursday, July 20, 2017

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THE transport ministry says it will not at this time ask the operators of the North South Highway to roll back the increase in toll rates which it said it rounded up in April as a result of a shortage of coins which made it challenging to come up with change for some motorists in some vehicles classes.

The Ministry of Transport and Mining, in a letter to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), said it had been advised by the central bank that there are now normal supplies of $10 coins and an interim supply of $20 coins, but has issued no instructions for the toll operators to reverse the rates because annual toll increases are imminent.

“We are currently in the toll rate review process as the time for effecting variations to the toll rates in line with the concession agreement is scheduled for early September 2017. It is anticipated that within the next six weeks there will be an adjustment of the rates resulting from the application from the JNSH (Jamaica North South Highway) to vary the toll rates. The ministry believes that reversing the adjustments made to address the coin shortage now, to then make further changes in early December, could cause discontent within the public domain,” the letter said.

The PAAC wrote to the ministry last week requesting an update on the roll-back, which the public had anticipated.

Committee Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill said he was disturbed by the decision since the rates were changed early in the year and motorists were expected to continue paying the increased rates until September, with no redress.

“Essentially what you have really had is a preliminary increase in rates caused, they say by Bank of Jamaica having a shortage of coins and now rather than move it back down what we are going to see is an adjustment and it will be moved up in September,” Dr McNeill stated.

The committee agreed to put before Parliament recommendations for the rates to be reversed.

“Tell the permanent secretary that this is unacceptable. It's the principle of it. It is a breach of trust and they should be more respectful to the public,” MP Fitz Jackson insisted.

In a letter to the PAAC in May, Permanent Secretary Dr Alwin Hales said the ministry intended to reverse the toll adjustments once the central bank had confirmed that the supply of coin has been regularised. There were also downward variations in the rates for some classes of vehicles.

When the matter first came before the committee, Senior Deputy Governor of the Bank of Jamaica John Robinson had explained that the rate of redemption of coins had fallen significantly this year, causing the shortage, and gave the undertaking that demands, particularly for $10 coins would be met by the start of June.

— Alphea Saunders




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