Council queries calls for bus fare increase

16/08/2018 15:25

The Consumer Council of Fiji is calling for bus companies to submit audited financial reports to relevant authorities before any request for a bus fare increase is entertained.

The Council notes with interest the calls from the Fiji Bus Operators Association for an increase in bus fares after price increases in fuel for the third quarter (Jan, April, July 2018) in a row.

Since the bus fare review in2009, there have been23 price decreases and 30 price increases in the cost of diesel per litre recorded to date.

The lowest price recorded during this period was $ 1 .23 per litre in April, 2016 and the highest was $2.39 per litre in January 2014.

The current price of diesel is $1.90 per litre. Since the implementation of the E-Ticketing system in October 2077, prices have indeed increased in each subsequent quarter but on an average of 1 I cents only. The total increase to date stands at $0.35 for the three quarters.

These fuel prices are still lower than prices experienced before the bus fare review was in 2009 and are still lower than the highest diesel price ($2.39) experienced post bus fare review.

If consecutive quarterly increases in the price of fuel are to be matched by increases in bus fares, logic would dictate that decreases in the price of fuel should also be followed by decreases in bus fares.

However there were no such calls when diesel prices were consistently reduced from $2.39 per litre in January 2014to an all-time low of $1.23 per litre April 2016.

Furthermore the introduction of e-ticketing has addressed the issue of embezzling by bus drivers which was previously identified as a major drain of revenue by bus operators. E-ticketing would have also given bus operators a better idea of revenue for reporting purposes.

There was also massive 21.9 per cent subsidies in 2009 in response to rising fuel prices and these were to be reviewed periodically upon movement of fuel prices.

The Council is aware that the bus industry is providing a vital service in transporting the consumers in Fiji and therefore its survival must be ensured. The Council also acknowledges that some bus companies have made the capital investment of upgrading their fleets for improved service delivery and have provided concessions under Government social policies.

But in light of the concessions given, together with high fares enjoyed over reducing fuel prices for prolonged periods, the Consumer Council believes that bus companies must reveal their audited accounts to the FCCC and the LTA to indeed prove that an increase is warranted.

Before an increase in bus fares, bus companies must match this with an improvement in quality of services.

Fuel price increases in three consecutive quarters cannot be the basis for calling for an increase in bus fares, these increases must be backed by hard figures and in the absence of these figures, it is difficult to justify any increase.