FINANCE Minister Dr Nigel Clarke says the secret to improving the service being provided by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) is to increase the number of buses and improve their fuel efficiency.
Clarke, who was responding to questions raised by Opposition spokesman on transport and works Mikael Phillips, said that course of action was preferable to reducing the subventions to the JUTC.
He said that the Government has taken the view that, to cushion the crisis, notwithstanding the cost of the operation of the company, is to keep the fares to the travelling public constant, although this will mean increasing costs to the company, and fulfil the need for the close to $7-billion subvention which the company has received so far this year.
An additional $1.1 billion is being made available in the 2022/2023 Supplementary Estimates Clarke tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.
He said that considering that options are either to increase bus fares or increase the subventions, the Government has taken the view that it is best to continue financing the service by way of the annual subvention and enable it to reach its targets.
"That is unavoidable in the circumstances," said the finance and public sector minister.
Phillips, however, insisted that the Government lacked a policy for the administration of the bus service. He noted that rural residents have to support the metropolitan bus service through their taxes, while they were not able to access the service.
"When you see a subvention approved for the year of almost $7 billion, you have a right to ask questions about that. But I believe that [in terms of] the policy choices that are available to the Government, of increasing the fees to the travelling public or increasing the subvention, at this point it doesn't stop there," said Clarke.
"We need to invest further in the JUTC with additional buses. Indeed, these supplementary estimates will release $1.1 billion to the Ministry of Transport to complete the acquisition of 50 new buses, and in the next fiscal year we will release more to acquire another tranche of buses. But, more than that, what we want to do, is to acquire buses that use the kinds of fuel that will give us greater efficiency all around... The drive towards recapitalising the stock of the JUTC, in terms of its physical stock, and doing so in a way that will achieve better levels of fuel efficiency and financial efficiency," he added.