As Deal Agreed Between Union, Government
By Amadou Manjang
Several commuters in the Greater Banjul Area on Wednesday complained against the growing increase in transport fares and asked the authorities to step in and increase the number of buses in the country.
The increment of fares comes in the wake of an agreement made between the Gambia Government and the Gambia Transport Union and other stakeholders, to increase transport fares due to a recent hike in global fuel price due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, as alluded to by the Ministry of Petroleum.
As Gambians battle for survival in this holy month of Ramadan when the price of some basic food commodities has soared, they see the increment in transport fares as another economic woe that will make their earnings and movement even more difficult.
The concerned commuters lamented the unemployment and deteriorating economic situation on them and said another high increase in transport fares will be the limit of their hardship.
By the way in the Gambia, statistics disclose that more than half the population live under the poverty line. And as the price of fuel soars beyond D64, it is inevitable for Government to negotiate with members of the Transport Union who are most obliged to increase fares at whatever outcome, according to Omar Ceesay, president of the Transport Union.
This reporter had a vox pop with different commuters on the 6th day of April 2022, on their concerns on the new increment and lack of regulation in the transport industry.
Nyima Sonko, a vendor who visits the Serekunda market daily, expressed her utter frustration with the deal between the Government and the Transport Union to increase fares, saying drivers have already been overcharging them on fares starting with the smallest amount of D10, to D20, D35, D50, D75 and D100 dalasi, depending on the destination of the commuter. She said
sometimes fares can rise up to fifty or one hundred dalasi depending on the availability of vehicles as of now, and Government is not doing anything to address this; the unreasonable increase in fares by drivers affects all petty traders like her because they have to spend most of their income on transportation.
“There is no regulation within the garages. Drivers wish to go wherever they want and over-charge whatever amount they want,” she lamented. Sonko further urges the Government to take measures to ensure that drivers do not charge extra fees since they have both agreed on a deal to increase fares.
Penda Cham, a resident of Latrikunda Sabiji and petty trade at the Serekunda market, said the new fares will only affect the poor masses harder.
“We have enough trouble with the increment of basic commodities. So adding an extra amount on transport fares will only increase the misery, hardship and suffering of the people,” she said.
Mary Mendy, a student of St’ Peter Technical Junior and Senior School said she pays D40 daily to reach her school. She said drivers deliberately overcharge passengers, and that fares to Lamin have almost doubled even though the price of fuel was not increased, and at a time when Government muted over this.
“I think, Government should regulate the transport industry first, before thinking of making a deal with drivers to increase fares because transport fares have already been increased since,” she said.
Ebrima Darboe said this: “I have to pay D75 to get to Brikama whenever I close from work because there will scarcity of cars and the traffic is also jammed most of the time. So, the drivers increase the fares even though the fuel price wasn’t increased. Commuters and drivers are all Gambians, so it does not have to be a deal that should serve the interest of drivers alone. All I can say is that the plight of poor Gambians should be considered by those representing us, because we put them where they are.”
Others express similar reactions regarding the deal struck between Government and drivers to increase transport fares.
In a similar development, Government said it will introduce a route licensing scheme to ease the transportation of people and goods in the Greater Banjul Area and the West Coast Region.