The concerns raised by bus operators in the Western Division about the high cost of doing business in a tightly regulated market are just the tip of the iceberg, says Rohit Latchan, the General Secretary of the Fiji Bus Operators Association.
“Across Fiji, many bus operators are struggling because bus fares have remained unchanged for 10 years while the majority of costs have gone up,” Latchan said.
“These concerns are nothing new as the Fiji Bus Operators Association has been highlighting this at every opportunity, in a bid to get the powers-that-be to listen to the plight of the operators.
“The suggested action by operators in the Western Division has only come about because they cannot afford to operate any longer.
It has come to a stage that they are unable to pay wages, purchase fuel and meet their bank commitments, and many have received demand notices from their financiers.
“Threatening operators to “show cause” for not being able to run services will not change the fact that high costs and reduced profitability on a decade-old fare structure remains a real threat to the entire industry.
“It is his responsibility as the chief executive of LTA to examine and understand the real reasons for these operators’ actions before resorting to threats.
“Ordering bus operators not to withdraw services without showing any willingness to understand the real issues bus operators are confronted with, is unbecoming of a person in his position.
“Gone are the days when such tactics could be used.
With a background in the bus industry, one would think the CEO of the Land Transport Authority would have a better understanding of the issues at stake and address them accordingly.
“In a meeting with the bus operators in the Western Division, we understand the LTA CEO had suggested that bus operators do not need a fare adjustment, even after 10 years.
How can the LTA CEO justify such a sweeping statement without backing it up?
“Operators have gone out of their way to comply with demands for financial information by the Independent Bus Fare Review Committee. While we provided the committee with our entire financial statements, the profit and loss statements themselves are sufficient to determine revenue and costs.
“As private business enterprises, bus operators should be entitled to expect a reasonable return on their business to enable them to re-invest and provide safe, efficient and reliable bus services.
“While mounting costs have hit bus operators hard, many companies have over the years continued their services because of their relationship with the travelling public, especially in areas that depend heavily on our services.
“We hope the public will understand the difficult position operators are in and we apologise to all those who are affected.”