BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, July 17, 2021 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – After learning that bus operators still had a number of concerns and questions regarding the recently announced stimulus relief package targeting owners of passenger buses, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris convened a meeting with the presidents of the various bus associations to help allay those concerns and to reassure them of his government’s continued commitment.
OnThursday, July 08, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis announced the reinstatement of the annual Import Duty exemption for 16 tyres (4 tyres per quarter), four pairs of brake pads and three pairs of brake shoes for ‘H’ passenger buses. Additionally, the Government will provide fuel subsidy of $400 per month to passenger bus operators for a period of three months.
Theinterests of the bus operators were represented by Mr. Bernard Boland Jr., President of the Sugar City Bus Association; Mr. Nicholson ‘Rambo’ Webster, President of the West Line Bus Association; Mr. Jefferson Pemberton, President of the East Line Bus Association; Mr. Calvin Martin, President of the St. Peter’s Bus Association and Mr. Tyrone “Granny” Browne, Public Relations Officer of the St. Peter’s Bus Association.
Duringthe cordial and fruitful discussions, the passenger bus operators expressed a number of their concerns including clarification on the requirements for the $400 fuel subsidy initiative, their participation in high level discussions surrounding the direction of the profession and the possibility of the introduction of additional duty free concessions.
PrimeMinister Harris told the bus drivers that his Government is cognizant of some of the additional challenges they face and gave the assurance that the administration is doing all that it reasonably can, at a time when its revenue stream is significantly affected, to address these concerns.
Theprime minister said, “We gave you special attention because we also appreciate the difficulty and the efforts that many of you made, notwithstanding the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, to comply and be helpful. You did it when we had the first lockdown and you did it again and so we understand some of the issues. And so we said we wanted to help and to indicate to you that we are with you even at this difficult time. You render an important service and we want you to continue to provide that good support.”
Therepresentatives of the bus associations thanked the St. Kitts and Nevis Government for the implementation of its stimulus relief targeted at passenger bus operators and owners. They also commended the honourable prime minister for taking time out to sit and listen to their concerns.
Mr. Boland said, “Personally, I thought that it was a very, very good gesture that we were able to come and sit down and speak to him. I really think that it was a good step in the right direction for us as bus drivers. Even though we weren’t able to get some of the stuff we would have asked for, I still think that he was extremely helpful in chartering the course that would help us get to where we need to get.”
TheEast Line Bus Association’s President, Mr. Jefferson Pemberton expressed a similar opinion, adding that, “I felt very special because he took the time out to listen to us as presidents and to hear our concerns. The meeting to me was very productive. I know that we’re in a pandemic and he won’t be able to do much but at least he has promised to do something and so I want to say thank you and thanks to the prime minister for his gesture.”
Mr. Webster said the onus is now on them as presidents of the various bus associations to take the information back to their members.
Hesaid, “I was very happy that we got the call to attend a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the things that are affecting us and I really found that the meeting was very fruitful, the prime minister was very calm and respectful and based on what was discussed I think it was reasonable on the Government’s side and reasonable on the operators’ side or the bus side of the argument. I’m having a meeting on Sunday, so I would be relaying the information that I received and also the commitments that we have from the prime minister because he made several commitments to us and I take him for his word and I think that he would come through on his word.”
Themeeting, which lasted over two hours, was held at the Prime Minister’s Government Headquarters office on Friday, July 17.
PrimeMinister Harris was accompanied by Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Skerritt; Financial Secretary in the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, Mrs. Hilary Hazel, and Mrs. Carleen Henry-Morton, the Chairperson of the Traffic Safety and Public Service Drivers Board.