By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Minnis administration is eying regulations to manage the issuance of taxi plates, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday, adding the government is also considering ending the controversial practice of leasing the plates.
Cabinet, he said, has “requested an audit of the taxi plates issued and their activity status.”
“The need to take the hustle out of taxi services is noted. There may be a need to issue new taxi plates in select Family Islands. Government is also looking at doing away with leasing taxi plates,” he said during his weekly media briefing.
The taxi cab industry has long been frustrated by various issues.
In May the Minnis administration announced in its Speech from the Throne that it would “review and give consideration to the ownership of taxi licence plates by persons who have been leasing those plates for many years.”
Philip Watkins, president of the Bahamas Taxicab Union (BTU), reacted previously saying: “The issue of taxi franchises has come up election after election. That statement is nothing new for us.
“You have persons right now managing plates which are owned by retirees,” he said.
“In some instances, the husband may have died and transferred the ownership of the plate to his wife, who is receiving those funds to supplement her pension. Sometimes maintaining a vehicle can prove to be a challenge, and because people find they could end up getting less money, they just let someone use their plate and get paid something every month.
“To what extent the government is proposing to regularise the taxi plates, I have no idea. If the union can be any assistance to them regularising the industry, we would be more than happy to do so.”
Mr Watkins said a moratorium on the issuance of taxi cab plates has been in existence for the past 20 years.
“Of the 1,135 plates issued for New Providence there are at least 200 not in the system for whatever reason,” he added.
“They are not on the road, and some may have been removed for whatever reason.
“The government needs to look at the Road Traffic Department, clear up the plates not operational and, if they see fit, to issue new plates. That’s their prerogative, but they should look at cleaning up the system.
“I wouldn’t advise them to go issue new plates because between one and 1,135, there are 200 or more plates that are in the system and haven’t been on the road in 15 years or more. They should bring them out, let’s start with them, and then we go from there.”