As announced in the 2018-2019 National Budget, the Fijian Government has stepped in to fund the Free Bus Fare initiative for Fijians living with disabilities and has expanded the initiative to cover free bus rides for all pensioners in Fiji.
Following a review of a comprehensive analysis conducted by Vodafone on riding trends, Government will top-up the eTransport cards of all recipients with $40 monthly allowances to cover bus travel. The top-ups commenced on 1 October 2018.
This monthly allowance will put $40 in free monthly fares into the pockets of over 51,000 pensioners for the first time, in addition to continuing to provide free fares for over 4,000 Fijians living with disabilities. Any unused funds will expire and not roll over at the end of each month.
“Previously, Government and bus operators had negotiated an agreement which allowed bus operators to keep the VAT component of bus fares and in turn not increase bus fares, while allowing Fijians with disabilities to ride for free and pensioners to ride at half price. However, that’s a service bus operators are no longer are willing to offer the Fijian people, so we’re stepping in. Government believes it is incumbent upon us to afford a special level of care of those living with disabilities and our pensioners –– some of the most vulnerable Fijians in our society. Apart from letting bus operators to continue to keep the VAT component of bus fares, we’re taking on the full cost of the initiative –– and we’re making it even more generous by allowing all pensioners in Fiji to also ride buses free of charge,” said Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
“Without the advancement of eTransport, this policy would have been nearly impossible to implement, but thankfully we’ve already taken that critical step in modernising our transportation industry. Now, we’re not only able to directly fund free rides for those living with disabilities, but tens of thousands of pensioners will also have newfound independence to travel more freely to visit their families, seek Government services and medical care, and carry out the day-to-day business of their lives with no financial burden.”
Only the initiatives beneficiaries –– pensioners and those living with disabilities –– should use these preloaded eTransport cards. LTA will be conducting random spot checks for misuse of the system; those falsely bearing another Fijian’s eTransport card, which are clearly marked, will be penalised.
Government will also be carrying out a review of the Free Bus Fare initiative to cater for any recipients with special travel requirements.