By Riel Major
Tribune Staff Reporter
TRANSPORT and Local Government Minister Renward Wells said the prime minister has formed a cabinet sub-committee of six ministers to tackle all issues surrounding the taxi industry.
Mr Wells staved off a strike threat as he addressed taxi drivers yesterday outside of the House of Assembly.
“One is a former road traffic controller as you all would know, one is the former minister, Mr Frankie Campbell, the other is the Minister of Tourism, (Dionisio D’Aguilar), myself, one is former Minister of Transport, Dion Foulkes and obviously the Attorney General, (Carl Bethel) so we will be coming together so we can bring the requisite solution to the situation,” he said.
“We are going to look at the franchise business in a very holistic way so at the end of the day we come back with best solutions. We are going to be doing that very soon. We understand your frustrations in regards about delivery and the taxis. We are engaged right now, and you would rightfully know very much so in the budget debate but I’m looking by July for us to be able to come back two taxis to the taxi industry and to the franchise industry.”
When confronted by a taxi driver of only “providing promises on top of promises”, Mr Wells said he’s been the minister for 10 months and the problems surrounding the taxi industry is a “20-year standing issue”.
He said: “I have been the minister for 10 months and in that 10 months I have had a town hall for all taxi drivers. In ten months, I’ve also allowed certain things to take place in the industry that really the government should have pulled back on because we chose not to disturb the industry.
“. . .We have also said those owners who are leasing to not disturb the industry until the government is able to come back. And for you to say we are not answering, or we are not giving answers, that’s not a representation of what is taking place.
“All I’m saying to you now is to give us an opportunity to bring further solutions to this industry because I don’t want to do anything that is going to be a stop gap measure and we be back here again in 10 months trying to figure out what we are going to do.”
Wesley Ferguson, The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union (BTU) president, said taxi drivers have been frustrated and despite their best efforts to meet with the government their issues still exist.
Mr Ferguson said: “We decided to have a protest but the minister called yesterday and asked us for some leeway to give him an opportunity to deal with some of the pressing issues... Basically what we came here to do this morning was to meet the minister and get him to tell these people first-hand what his plans are for the taxi drivers moving ahead.”
The BTU president outlined some of the issues that haven’t been resolved, which include a set date for when the moratorium on taxi plates will be lifted, when the colour of taxi licence plates will change and problems dealing with the Road Traffic Department.
When asked if he was satisfied with Mr Wells’ comments, Mr Ferguson said they will never be satisfied because “we have nothing in hand.”
“We still have some more promises, so satisfaction is when you see something being done,” Mr Ferguson said. “When you have something tangible. It’s only reasonable to give the minister more time. Because we have been in this time waiting period for some time and because the government don’t seem to be forthcoming with time, so we just have to keep pressing them until we get some resolution,” he said.
Mr Ferguson noted the union will give the government until the end of July to start addressing their issues.
He said: “July 1 is a little over a month and a week so we will give him until the end of July. We aren’t barbaric, we’re not unreasonable people the end of July and after that we will be back in his space again.”