Patrons board an omnibus in Arnos Vale, St. Vincent. Photo: Stephan Hornsey Photography
EDITORIAL: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt by omnibus operators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
With schools out and people trying to avoid non-essential travelling throughout the country, operators of omnibuses are expected to experience steady declines in their incomes as the country takes measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The government has recommended that omnibuses reduce the number of passengers to commute on buses from 18 to 12 at any given time.
This leaves room for a maximum of three passengers per row in a regular 18-seater bus for every trip.
In response to this, the government decided to give omnibus operators a stipend of between XCD $250 and XCD $300, for two months in the first instance, beginning April 2020.
This move, however, agreed upon by the Vincentian Transportation Association (VINTAS) which comprises of some 200 omnibus operators is being met with indifference and even resistance by some omnibus drivers.
Some operators have loans and mortgages to pay, families to take care of and other worthy goals which only a steady income can help them to meet. While such considerations have a lot of merit, other considerations might carry more weight at this time.
Some key questions arise for those operators against the measure:
1. Would those omnibus operators against the stipend prefer if the country was on a total lock down in which no economic activity would happen for them, or, would they prefer less economic activity as is happening now?
2. Are the health and safety of passengers less important than the economic needs of the omnibus operators?
3. Since the economic situation in the country is being curtailed and government revenue is projected to be scaled back significantly, where is the government getting money from to give and sustain such a stipend?
4. Since the association representing omnibuses have reached an agreement with the government with the stipend, is your non-acceptance of the stipend undermining your colleagues?
The old proverb from 1546 says: “For better is half a loaf than no bread.” Perhaps, we should all try to ensure we all can eat during a time of reduced harvest and depleting grain.
There is a time and season for everything and this is the season for us to be in solidarity with each other. We must balance each other’s interests against the scarce resources available to meet these interests.
We will overcome this volatile period, but in the meantime, let’s overcome the inclination to put our personal interests alone first. Let us share each other’s interests.
By: Demion McTair