Ban on Vipanya: Another punch on the head
Today’s local papers reported of the decision by the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) to ban use of 16-seater minibuses in transportation of passengers in Dar es Salaam effective from 1 August 2008. The Authority’s Director General, Israel Sekirasa, listed several reasons to justify the ban:
1. Small and old vehicles are not good for ferrying passengers (He however did not qualify ‘not good’ – thus making the reasoning orphaned).
2. High fuel prices due to skyrocketing global fuel prices; poorly qualified drivers engaged as bus operators (scattered reasons that only show that there is a separate need for another control system).
3. That old vehicles consume more fuel than new ones. (Could be an important reason but again it has been misplaced as there is no direct connection with the ban on minibuses).
I’m particularly interested in this new development as I think that there are hidden agendas in the way the whole thing is being handled.
1. There are Tanzanians who, having obtained some money, decided to invest in the passenger transportation business. These are small entrepreneurs and all they could afford was import a 12m/= worth minibus manufactured 10 – 15 years ago. They use this bus to earn their living. With this bus they have employed a bus driver and a conductor. So, this bus is a source of income for at least three families. From this income the government earns its dues in the form of different taxes. So, when the ban becomes effective this category of entrepreneurs will be systematically and purposefully eliminated from this rather lucrative business. There will be no income for the bus owner, for the driver and for the bus conductor. Bigger buses (and their companies) will not be in the position to absorb them all. Above all the government will also lose.
2. Passenger transportation business will be consolidated in the hands of a few big business persons – the rich and powerful. These are the ones who can afford to import new and bigger vehicles. In the end, these will form and create cartels – when they decide to hike prices, there will be no one to stop them not even SUMATRA. In the end, it is the common man who will lose in this game.
Areas that SUMATRA needs or needed to have taken into consideration:
1. How are owners of minibuses expected to use their vehicles after the ban? What should they do with the buses: ground or sell them? If they are to sell them, whom should they sell them to?
2. Those young men employed in the sector – where should they go to? Farming? Join the army of hawkers? Join gangsters and bandits?
1. Stop importation of small buses in the next ten years – the ones that operate now will wear out and automatically get grounded. Simple and easy and hurts no one, besides all will be aware that minibuses are no longer permitted to carry passengers. Let’s all remember that private sector started engaging in public transportation following the failure by UDA to meet transportation requirements in Dar. Then Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi gave permission for the public sector to chip in. Lorries (Chai Maharage) were put to use. Slowly the forms and types of vehicles have been changing and today we have better vehicles, even if some are older than five (5) years. There is a ‘history’ here. What was ushered in ceremoniously should not be thrown out ‘unceremoniously’.
2. Establish categories for commuter buses – set separate fares and standards for each category. Passengers will have a wider choice depending on how much they have in their pockets. Again simple and easy to implement. After all this is now a capitalist society – so existence of classes is not a sin under the system.
Story from one local newspaper about the ban
Vipanya’ ordered off roads
Daily News; Monday,June 16, 2008 @19:01
Commuter buses carrying less than 25 passengers will be barred from operating with effect from August 1, this year, the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) has said.
Sumatra Director General Israel Sekirasa said in Dar es Salaam today that it had directed the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) to stop registering smaller buses as well as passenger vehicles that have been on the road for more than five years.
Mr Sekirasa was addressing a transport stakeholders’ meeting intended at gathering views on hiking bus fares due to skyrocketing fuel prices worldwide. “The new regulations aim at improving public transport in the country and commuter buses such as those of Toyota Hiace make with the capacity to carry below 25 passengers would no longer be allowed to operate after the set date”, he said.
Mr Sekirasa said that the move comes after it was learnt that small and old vehicles are not good for ferrying passengers and that they are part of the reasons for regular bus fare increases. “Starting from September 1 this year only vehicles that have been on the road for less than five years will be allowed to operate as buses or for hiring purposes and TBS will inspect them before they are registered by TRA”, he said.
He added that his office will work with traffic police to ensure that all passenger vehicles are driven by qualified drivers with valid licenses as part of efforts to reduce road accidents caused by reckless drivers. Mr Sekirasa further said that although the need to hike bus fares is prompted by skyrocketing global fuel prices, it would be prudent to propose reasonable fares that would be affordable to ordinary people.
The chairman of the conference, Mr Emmanuel Ole Kambainei, said that old vehicles consume more fuel than new ones and that statistics show that buses that have been operating in cities in Tanzania have an average of 18 years. “Fuel consumption and spare parts cost a lot in old vehicles hat have an average of 18 years on the road whereas manufacturers had only meant for the vehicles to operate for six years”, he said. He also said that some owners demand for a hike in bus fares because they did not carry out thorough studies before venturing in the transport business.