Finance Minister Colm Imbert thought nothing of removing the restrictions for banded maxi taxis until moments before he made his budget presentation in the Parliament on Monday says Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
This was so, she said, as the printed version of the budget statement she received had nothing about maxi taxis. “Not once was it mentioned,” in the statement.
The online version of the statement posted on the Ministry of Finance website, she said, read “Madam Speaker, we are pleased to announce that we are removing all restrictions on banded maxi taxis in order to open up the public transportation system.”
Imbert’s statement in the Hansard in the Parliament on Monday she said had this to say on page 21 of the Budget Statement 2018: Changing the Paradigm: Putting the Economy on a Sustainable Path, “This Government is to remove the current restrictions on the allocation of maxi taxi licenses. Remove it altogether. No longer will there be restrictions on ownership of banded maxi taxis. Persons will be able to buy and band their maxi taxis and drive wherever they please without any restriction. This will open up the public transportation system.” The Opposition, Persad-Bissessar said, “Are unsure about what restrictions are being removed as the minister, on one hand, said all restrictions to be removed and then, on the other hand, the minister spoke of the removal of restrictions on ownership of banded maxi taxis.”
Noting that they are two different statements, which carry different meaning, she said, she does not know which version to rely on. “The Minster thought one thing, he wrote another thing and then said something else,” she said.
Calling it an overnight make up policy, she said, this removal of restriction was a betrayal by the PNM Government. She recalled that in 2011, an attempt was made to remove the restrictions on the registration of maxi taxis but this was shut down by the High Court.
Currently, several members of the various maxi associations, she said, have called on the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert to clarify the measures to remove the restrictions. Calling on Imbert to meet and speak with them, she said, underscores that there was no consultation with various stakeholders. “Another vie-ki-vie decision by the minister, which would fail in court if they do not consult with the people.”