By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas TaxiCab Union’s president yesterday voiced optimism that the government will issue 300 new plates as it prepares to lift the 27-year moratorium on new issuances.
Wesley Ferguson told Tribune Business he was seeking 100 plates for taxi drivers who had been waiting for at least 15 years for their opportunity, as well as 200 plates for younger drivers.
He spoke out after Renward Wells, minister for transport and local government, confirmed that the Cabinet had agreed to lift the long-standing block on new plate issues.
“The taxi moratorium and the livery moratorium has been lifted by the Cabinet of The Bahamas,” Mr Wells said. “It was a decision that was taken a couple of weeks ago. I was a little bit disappointed in the president of the union jumping ahead of the Government of The Bahamas and making the announcement.
“But we had spoken to him once the prime minister had made the decision to move forward, once the cabinet has made the decision to move forward, and the prime minister instructed me to speak with both unions - both the livery union and the taxi cab union - to get the number of persons they had on their list who were sub-leasing and who had been working in the industry for some 15-plus years.
“So we had that meeting. They provided the data, but they stepped forward before the Government of The Bahamas was able to make that announcement. So I had words with the president of the union and I believe we are on the same page going forward in the future,” Mr Wells confirmed.
Mr Ferguson confirmed the meeting between Mr Wells and the union, and that he told Mr Wells it was “just about under 300 people waiting for taxi plates, which consisted of 100 or more persons who were in the business for 15 years, and then I asked him for an additional 200 for the younger drivers”.
Mr Ferguson said he expects to receive the number of plates he asked for, and added: “I didn’t get a ‘no’. I’m not quite sure that he agreed to the 300, but he didn’t tell me he disagreed to the 300. So you know, silence means consent.
“The taxi industry is excited about this moratorium being lifted. It has been 27 years since this moratorium has been in place. We now have to make the taxi industry better for the younger generation of drivers who want an opportunity to get their plates and run their own business for themselves. This 27-year moratorium wait is why we have such a long list of drivers now who are waiting for their own plates.”
Asked whether the moratorium’s lifting means that regular taxi service in the inner cities will return, Mr Ferguson said: “We have a programme in place that is comparable to the Uber app where you would be able to order a taxi online.
“No later than February of next year we expect this Bahamian-style Uber app to be ready. An app developer out of Freeport was building it for us, but he was devastated by the storm and he lost a lot of his equipment. But he has since now recovered and has resumed working on the app for us for our February roll-out.”