Free Enterprise Bus Service per The Belize Reporter 3 August 2001
- The violent confrontation last Monday between bus owners and their
commuters on the one hand and government security forces on the other
was not planned.
Commuters aboard the Tillett bus became upset after the police
stopped the bus (because its road permit had expired) and obliged the
passengers to walk the several miles to Orange Walk Town.
The commuters were furious at this abuse of authority, and persuaded
the bus owner to make a protest by parking his bus at the approach to
the Toll Bridge. Castillo's Bus which also had a gripe with the
Transport Department, decided to join the protest and brought his bus
to the blockade.
Both Tillett and Castillo are small operators, each owning two
buses. They provide a good and reliable service to village commuters
who have to find a way to get to work..
The people of the north reject completely the views put forward by the
Belize Transport Authority and the Ministry of Works in which they
blame the Tillett and Castillo bus lines for overcrowding their buses.
They also reject entirely the view that the cheaper fares of
Castillo and Tillett are disruptive of the orderly development of
The case for cheaper fares is a simple matter of private enterprise
competing for a larger slice of the cake. If Castillo and Tillett can
afford to sell a bus ride from Orange Walk to Belize City for $3.00,
Novelo's Bus line, which is much bigger and much richer, should be
able to reduce its fare of $4.50 in order to compete.
This is how competition in private enterprise works.
The complaint about overcrowding can be solved simply and easily by
allowing more buses on the line. Only in backward Belize can a
transport authority hope to cure overcrowding by restricting the
flow of traffic.
And if a bus owner violates the conditions of his road permit, what
can be the justification for penalizing the commuters, when it is so
much simpler to charge the owner with a traffic violation?
"A safe, reliable public bus transportation system" is the objective
of the Department of Transport, according to Minister Henry Canton.
He may be pleased to know that the commuters of Guinea Grass and
Progresso agree with him completely. That is why they have chosen the
smaller bus lines over their much bigger rival.
In the final analysis it is the commuters whose comfort and safety
are of paramount importance. This being so, why does the Transport
Department not listen to what commuters have to say? Why doesn't the
Transport Department pay heed to their clearly stated preference.
In the minds of many commuters, the Belize Transport Department is
more interested in protecting the Novelo franchise than in looking
after the legitimate interests. of the pssengers.