St James taxi association president says $25,000 not enough
The almost weekly increase in gas has been taking a toll onmotorists.

MONTEGO BAY, St James — President of the St James Taxi Association, Dion Chance wants the Government to revisit the level of support it has provided to defray the cost of climbing fuel prices.

While his 2,000-member-strong organisation has welcomed the $25,000 grant for operators of public passenger vehicles (PPV), he says it is still not enough to deal with the challenges they face.

“It is woefully inadequate, although we are happy for it. We want to engage the powers that be with other discussions. I don’t know where and what we can get but discussions need to be had,” the association president told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

It has been just over a week since the Government announced that the relief package was in place and owners of public passenger vehicles could apply to access the cushion against rising fuel prices.

In March, Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke said the programme will cost the Government some $600 million. More than 17,000 PPV operators are set to benefit.

According to Chance, the application process has been going well and members are now waiting for information on how to collect the funds — but they need more.

“I think gas has risen over $100 dollars a litre in the past year and that is untenable for the sector. It’s about $250 a litre for gas — and we talking about the lowest grade,” he said.

“We need to sit down to see how we can come up with some solution because we living in some serious times. International things are affecting us locally and that is something that, collectively, we have to find a way how to go around it or try to mitigate it,” said Chance who is also public relations officer for the National Council of Taxi Associations (NCOTA).

He said while rising gas prices are not unique to Jamaica, something needs to be done to alleviate the challenges faced by local operators.

“People just living day to day, not being able to save even though they are on the road. You have to maintain the vehicle, you have to buy the gas, and they have to keep their houses going. So, nothing extra can be done at this time. Some just living hand to mouth in the taxi fraternity,” he lamented.

These challenges come despite last August’s 15 per cent increase in fares for all routes. It was the first in eight years. The Government indicated, in February this year, that another fare hike is coming.

“We need to negotiate something to give relief on a long-term basis. The gas price cut deep into the profitability, and the cost of living is up there as well. So right now everywhere we turn macka jook we, using a Jamaican term,” said Chance.

“We are feeling it just like the rest of the country; the supermarket, the light, the phone bill, the water — everything — so it’s a real, real challenge. It’s open season for everybody because the manufacturers are killing us. Bread raise, flour, supermarket — everything they add at will while we sit and perish so I am very, very concerned,” he stressed.

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