By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Jitney drivers yesterday said they were "disappointed" that the relief package promised by the Government in July to help combat high gas prices has yet to materialise.
Harrison Moxey, the United Public Transportation Company's (UPTC) president, told Tribune Business: “They never let us know what the relief package was. They said the Ministry of Finance was looking at putting together a proposed package but we never received it."
Joe-Beth Coleby-Davis, minister for transport and housing, told reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting in early July that the Government would be offering unspecified relief packages to jitney drivers to help offset the rise in fuel prices. She added that details, and a final decision on what this relief would look like, were supposed to have been forthcoming during the summer.
It is now autumn, and nothing has been issued yet. High fuel prices, combined with COVID-related restrictions that capped passenger occupancy at 50 percent and the absence of a compensating fare increase, have handicapped the jitney industry since early 2020. Many drivers either left the business or delayed putting their vehicles back on the road post-pandemic as it was unprofitable to do so.
Mr Moxey yesterday said he believes the sector has been forgotten by policymakers as “everyone is getting their deals signed off on but us. The government is even bragging about how they are signing these agreements with these various groups, but not us, and we are out here still battling with the same problems we had before the pandemic that the pandemic made worse.
"I won't say we’re going to protest; it’s just that we’re going to be making a statement and letting them know that the suffering is still here," Mr Moxey continued. "Even though fuel prices have been reduced, they're still high, plus there is still inflation for everyone.
"Inflation has hit everything. A lot of things there are still crucial to our well-being, and so we really need some type of relief. I think we really need to look at the issue of the [fare] increases because we see everybody else getting things and we believe we deserve it as well.”