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Opinion, Opinion

STATEMENT: Govt Must Be Consistent About Its Policies

STATEMENT: Govt Must Be Consistent About Its Policies
SODELPA MP, Aseri Radrodro.
May 26
11:00 2018

The issuance of new prior­ity taxi permits handed out earlier this week by the Hon Attorney General and Acting Prime Minister Hon Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum to 43 new taxi operators in Suva, raises a number of issues with regards to the ability of the Government to be consistent about its policies.

This call comes following earlier statements by Government that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) would be conducting a barrel draw to award taxi permits following the lifting of the taxi freeze in Janu­ary this year. As Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, I questioned the principles behind the awarding of the 43 permits.

I stated that just in January of this year, the LTA had said that its team was able to identify zones af­ter undertaking a feasibility study on population, road and transporta­tion and that it was considering the issue of traffic congestions in the zone areas identified.

I had said the LTA had stated that currently, there are 5461 taxis oper­ating around the country, and that the LTA has identified 34 taxi zones, six zones in the Central Division, 18 in the Western Divisions, six zones in the Northern Divisions and four zones in the Maritime Division.

I had questioned in the last sitting of Parliament, how Government and the LTA would conduct this draw and what laws would cover such an exercise.

I also stated that the permit issu­ance without proper explanations as to which zones these taxis would be operating under for example, would only add to confusion and feelings of unfairness to people, who had similarly applied for the permits during the period of the freeze. It needs to be considered by Government that people follow such processes and many will que­ry if the processes being adopted is consistent with its earlier revela­tions of a barrel draw.

I said if this issuance was only applicable to those who had ap­plied during the freeze, then where would the much brandished barrel draw be applicable?

Last year, when people approached LTA for taxi permit applications, they were informed no new forms would be given out. So, how did the LTA deal with this latest permit issuance’s? How many altogether applied from around the country? These are pertinent details the LTA needs to provide otherwise there is a concern of manipulation and pos­sible abuse of the system.

It has become a practice of Gov­ernment to implement all these gimmicks like the roll out of the speeding camera laws only to be later withdrawn, because neces­sary laws were in conflict with ad­ministrative requirements.

What needs to be also considered is instances where Local Town Councils have been approving taxi bases and people have actually paid lots of money for these permits, for example in Sigatoka, people paid over $1750 for these permits and some actually paid much more than that to be able to also build actual taxi base structures, only to be in­formed by LTA that permits were still frozen.

Government needs to ensure these institutions that are managed by Government do not contradict each other for it adds to the frustration of people and contributes to eco­nomic woes for applicants.

The revelation by the Honour­able Sayed-Khaiyum that the issu­ance of taxi permits will give low-income earners a chance to own a new permit, felt like an elections gimmicks given the freeze had been in place since 2009.

I concluded that if Government truly wanted to promote transpar­ency and accountability, then it needed to publish the names of all new permit holders in the media with a period for objections made available, so that those that truly qualified were able to access the much awaited permits and it did not end up in the hands of some people as has been the practice dur­ing the periods of the taxi freeze.

It certainly looks like vote buying.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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