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Bus Operators Urged to Take Advantage of Government Initiatives

Bus operators have been urged to take advantage of a number of initiatives put in place by Government to mod­ernise the bus industry. While officiating at the Fiji Bus Operators
13 May 2018 11:00
Bus Operators Urged to Take Advantage of Government Initiatives
Acting Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, with members of the Fiji Bus Operators Association during the association’s annual convention at Novotel Suva Lami Bay Convention Centre on May 12, 2018.

Bus operators have been urged to take advantage of a number of initiatives put in place by Government to mod­ernise the bus industry.

While officiating at the Fiji Bus Operators Association annual convention yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, said bus companies need to strategise how they will be relevant in the future.

He said they need to think of the future be­cause of technology and the change in demo­graphics in society a lot of changes will take place in the next few years.

He stressed the need for bus operators to un­derstand their markets and how to position themselves in the future.

He highlighted that Government has given them all 15-year licences and have set a regu­lation where they can sell their licences with­out ever referring to Land Transport Author­ity.

He said they even have the ability to mort­gage their licenses where banks can now ac­cept as secure collateral.

He noted before they were never able to do that.

He said a licence itself is an asset and that they have a number of opportunities.

He also suggested that in the bus industry they can form some sort of conglomerate and may need to do that in order to survive.

He urged bus companies to get listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange to further en­hance their businesses.

FBOA president Richard Lal said the annu­al convention is the highlight of the year for bus operators across Fiji because it affords us a time to gather, listen to our stakeholders and raise our concerns about matters that af­fect us.

“We live in rapidly changing world and the way we plan and deliver our services is being transformed as never before.

“The effect of technology, the internet and social media, means that people’s mobility expectations are changing.

“As well as, mitigating global warming which is such an enormous challenge.

“Our theme this year is What the Bus Indus­try Means to Fiji and How to Maintain Sus­tainability.”

What the bus industry means to Fiji.

The bus industry in Fiji is recognised as the most cost effective mass transport system provided by the private sector.

Mr Lal said: “The bus industry plays a key role in the economy and contributes towards the GDP and in Fiji’s development as a na­tion.

“Putting things in perspective: The average monthly total transactions or trips from the data available is in excess of nine million excluding any free travel due to malfunction of the eTicketing system, students who may have lost or misplaced their card and the un­ruly.

“This confirms that buses play a key role in the lives of our people at large.

“The total average monthly transaction/trips consists of:

nOver six million full fare paying adult cus­tomers

n406,000 over 60 years paying 50 per cent fare many of who are gainfully employed

n71,000 disposable cards

n50,000 exempt disabled travelling free

n500,000 adult students non subsidized stu­dents paying 50 per cent fare

n250,000 student child non subsidized at 50 per cent fare

n1,042,000 subsidised adult students at 50 per cent fare

n733,434 subsidised child students at 50 per cent fare.

“The bus industry estimates that these dis­counts cost the industry approximately $20m per annum.

“The industry wants this to be reviewed as the current arrangement is not achieving the desired results in assisting the needy.

“According to the Orion Report, the bus in­dustry serves the bulk of the Fijians.”

He said the bus industry model requires predictability, certainty and sustainability.

“The environmental and social sustainabili­ty goals cannot be achieved unless the bus in­dustry can ensure the finance sustainability.

“The bus industry’s sustainability is not limited to bus technology shift and must be considered as part of the holistic approach that includes other factors.

“Many sustainable transport strategies to reduce climate change risks will benefit ma­jority of Fiji’s population, if well designed transport policies and infrastructure invest­ment priorities can lead to far reaching re­ductions in health risks from air and noise pollution and injuries.

“Therefore, without jeopardising the profit driven model of the bus industry, the Govern­ment has to re-allocate resources to compen­sate potential market failures such as Low Bus Fares and High Cost Environmental Friendly Buses.

“Government needs to involve the bus in­dustry in its deliberations in formulating the best policies going forward with a “Win Win” situation.

“This will provide the platform for open discussions and analysis with cost benefit considering the higher capital expenditure, product suppliers, life cycle costs, mainte­nance cost, infrastructure provision and suitability of the technology shift products and human resource training for the new technology.

“There has to be a timeline with adequate lead time for adjustments and alignments by all stakeholders.

“It has to be programmed and staged over a reasonable period of time.

He highlighted while the future is being de­liberated, there is an urgent need to review Government support with zero rated VAT against the concessions provided by the bus industry and cost increases.

“There has been no cost adjustments for the last nine years.

“There is no parallel example of this is in any other industry or business in Fiji.

“We have jointly determine how best to in­crease revenue for the bus industry.

“Bus industry is the only industry provid­ing discounts to certain privileged groups.

“This must be reviewed and the bus indus­try must be reviewed and the bus industry must be recognised as a commercial under­taking like as any other business in Fiji.

“Assistance must be provided only to the needy by social welfare.

Mr Lal said:“Seven years ago, we convened our annual event with the theme “a para­digm shift”. It has taken some time, but we have begun to witness that paradigm shift.

“The recent major milestone for the in­dustry has been the introduction of the e-transport system, you all are aware of the positives and negatives from your experience of using the system and the challenges that continue to exist, due to certain anomalies. If these are sorted out, it would assist the bus industry and all concerned.

“In addition, some stakeholders are not per­forming as anticipated.

“This is not acceptable as we are now in the 10th month of using the e-Transport system and still face issues and loss of revenue.

“FBOA continues to address the outstand­ing matters with the relevant stakeholders.

“This work has to continue.

“FBOA has always promoted the idea that consultation with stakeholders is essential to fostering goodwill and understanding so sound decisions are made in a transparent manner, while avoiding loggerheads.

“Bus operators are the best people to iden­tify the issues and suggest solutions.

“Recent experience, where laws have been enacted without industry consultation led to major issues with detrimental effects and fi­nancial loss to the industry.

“Having said that, we have had some im­provement in the consultation with technical working group headed by the permanent sec­retary of transport.

“These committees must continue and should be empowered to make firm recom­mendations rather than just be an ad hoc committee.

“With e-Transport, good data is available that can assist us with future decision mak­ing, we encourage the stakeholder to use this data.

“We are pleased the PSV section is in the process of being centralised at the LTA head office, … and should be fully operationally by June 1, 2018.

“This was a FBOA recommendation. We thank LTA Board for making this change.”

More than 100 association members and key stakeholders attended the Convention at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay Convention Centre.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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