One-third of dormant taxi plates ‘rescued’


Tribune Business Reporter

One-third of the 90 dormant taxi plate holders have paid-off arrears owed to the Government within 48 hours of being warned they would otherwise lose these assets.

Ryan Pinder, the attorney general, told the Senate at the end of his Budget debate contribution that 30 owners had raced to meet good on their obligations after the Ministry of Transport and Housing issued a Monday statement advising that all dormant taxi plates will be recalled.

The minister, reading a press release from the ministry into the Senate record, said: “The practice of renting plates must end. Following the conduct of an inventory assessment of taxi plates in New Providence, it was noted that some 90 taxi plates were inactive.

“The publication of a public notice by the Road Traffic Department was a proactive decision to bring order and accountability to the registration and distribution of taxi plates. It should be noted that taxing plates will only be recalled in accordance with the law.

“The Ministry of Transport and Housing wishes to advise members of the public that the lifting of the moratorium on the issuance of new taxi plates was not executed in secret. Consultations were held with numerous stakeholders, including the Bahamas Taxicab Union (BTCU), with a view to achieving the Government’s goal: The modernisation of the transportation sector.”

Revealing that the Government’s dormant plate warning has produced immediate results, Mr Pinder added: “I’m advised that upon the notice some 30 dormant plate owners came in, satisfied their arrears and kept the plates.”

The Ministry of Housing and Transport, in its statement, said it was seeking to “bring long overdue changes to the distribution of taxi plates” as part of efforts to modernise the transportation sector. The recall of dormant, or rented, taxi plates, was identified as a key part of this effort as it sought to place all these assets “under the control” of the people who operate them.

Thus signalling its intent to stop the long-standing practice of renting out taxi plates, which has seen the owners lease them to drivers at exorbitant rates, the ministry added: “For decades, hundreds of industry participants have been unable to own taxi businesses as licences have been under the control of a small group of persons, some of whom inherited plates. The Government believes in supporting business ownership and the ability of taxi drivers to own their businesses.”

Wesley Ferguson, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union’s president, told Tribune Business: “All of this stemmed from taxi drivers operating in the ‘estate of’ someone. Under previous comptrollers of the Road Traffic Department there were a lot of dormant plates; there were over 200 of them. It was much more than 90 dormant plates, much more than 90.

“The Comptroller reserves the rights to issue those plates because they have already been gazetted, and there was nothing wrong with that, but what they did was they put the taxi plates in the category of ‘estate of’ and that shouldn’t have been done. If the Comptroller would have done due diligence on the plates, and where they originated from, there wouldn’t be this mess we have now.

“They were supposed to put them in the papers, and then they were to regularise these plates by just allowing these people who think that they have a claim to a dormant plate, whether it is a family member, son or daughter, and upon investigation if they were satisfied then that plate should have been turned over wholly in that person’s name,” Mr Ferguson added.

“But you found that some of those people who got dormant plates from the comptroller in the ‘estate of’ were faced with a dilemma in the event of an accident, or even to do certain transactions on behalf of that plate, because the plate was not in their name and only on the business license as the person who is operating the plate. If they were to go to an insurance company, the insurance company would not pay them because the payment cheque is supposed to go to the person who owns the plate.”