Couva North MP, Ravi Ratiram, has come out in support of taxi drivers who are frustrated with Government’s 50% capacity regulation.
In a statement on Sunday, Ratiram said that after reviewing a media report where the Trinidad and Tobago Taxi Drivers Network has called on taxi drivers across T&T to take a day of rest to express their disappointment in the 50% capacity regulation imposed on them by the Government, he utilized Urgent Question time at Friday’s sitting of Parliament to ask the Minister of Works and Transport (MOWT) Rohan Sinanan whether the government was reconsidering its decision to impose the said 50% capacity restriction on taxi drivers.
However, Ratiram said the response from the Minister clearly showed that either he has not been in dialogue with his cabinet colleague, the Minister of Health, (who is responsible for the Health Regulations) on this matter, or that he has been ignorant to the plight of our taxi drivers since imposing the 50% restriction.
He said “Whichever it may be, it shows just how disconnected the Rowley-led Government really is to the challenges our citizens are facing. When I further asked Minister Sinanan whether the Government would consider reintroducing the Taxi Owner Fuel Relief Grant, he stated, “History would have shown us if something is not working, you have to try something else. The last time this grant was offered, a mere 500 odd taxi drivers accessed the Grant so we are looking at other ways with the Ministry of Finance to see how we can bring some measure of relief to the taxi drivers going forward.”
“In other words, the Minister stood in Parliament, criticized his own program as “not working” but worst yet, he replaced it with zero, nothing, absolutely no relief assistance for taxi drivers!” he added.
Ratiram noted, “These taxi drivers, who are categorized as essential service providers, have never stopped working or taking the risk to serve the travelling public, even though there have been significant increases in COVID-19 positive cases. They cannot apply for any salary or income relief grant, and the Minister has neglected to offer any relief program to reduce the resultant hardships they face.
“This is again, a clear indication that the Rowley-led Government continues to operate as the most inconsiderate and uncaring government we have ever had in T&T. They simply do not care about those 500 taxi drivers who were in dire need of that Fuel Relief Grant to support their families,” he said.
He said “The staff at the Couva North MP’s Office has been in communication with the President of the T&T Taxi Drivers Network, Adrian Acosta, who stated that since March 2020 to date, taxi drivers have individually lost between $50,000 to $60,000 in average earnings. As a result, increasing the fares was the only way that taxi drivers could have justified making a living from plying their trade.”
He said “The Taxi Drivers Network are calling on the government to revert to one passenger per window, which will see taxis operating at 75 percent capacity and a consequent reduction of taxi fares.”
According to Ratiram, “There is no rationale for procrastination and ignorance on the part of any Cabinet Minister. Hence, I call on the Minister of Health and the Minister of Works and Transport to waste no more time and make immediate, affirmative decisions in the best interest of our taxi drivers and our travelling population.”