Dear Editor – The problem of short bus routes has been around for a while now and it has been a ‘Thorn in the Flesh’, a ‘Pain in the Neck’ and a ‘Kick in the Guts’ to all of us; while those causing it are enjoying seeing the public suffer.
It has affected our economy, especially in Honiara as people are making it an excuse to get to work late resulting in under performance due to working less hours than expected (i.e. eight hours a day).
I have been in some occasions sitting in the vans and heard those drivers joking about the routes, laughing when they saw the public struggling to get into their little vans which at times instead of fourteen seats for passengers became ten or less causing someone to squeeze with their checkers/conductors.
I once asked a City Councillor about this issue and all he said was it’s up to the Ministry of Infrastructure Development as they are the ones looking after the highway.
The idea behind me asking him was to see if the City Council, which collects money from vehicle owners besides MID, to team up together and work on a policy or create an authority which regulates how the Road Transport system especially in Honiara should be operated.
I find it not only ridiculous but very annoying to say the least when the government and the Honiara City Council could get money from vehicle owners and the public through fees, licenses, tax and other levies and yet are too ignorant to address an issue which when one diligently study, is actually a national issue.
We want to improve our tourism sector, yet, transportation is a very vital part and parcel of this sector which needs to be improved.
Tourist boats only berth at Point Cruz for a few hours then leave again.
If the transport sector is not improved then we are telling our visitors, ‘this the last time I’d visit Solomon Islands again’.
When you do not have a regulatory system in place, then you would expect ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’ to do whatever they want, whenever they want it.
This is the only country in the Pacific where people just do whatever they want to do with transportation without proper checks and balances.
Now according to the Chinese people owning buses, I thought this is one business area that is supposed to be left for indigenous people of this country to engage in, so with taxi service.
This is a sector which the government should assist indigenous people with, through capital and expert advice on how to operate it; seeing the public transport system here is not provided by the government nor the Honiara City Council as other countries do.
However, competition is good for customers and business owners as the old adage ‘competition is the name of the game’ goes in the business world.
But, if you regulate how it should be operated, then competition in a controlled environment is healthy for both consumers and business owners alike.
I haven’t seen or heard what the outcome of a task force set up to look into this issue have come with, but at that point in time, the bus owners were complaining about the traffic congestion in Honiara. I believe it still is a nightmare as we speak.
If this is the real cause of the problem, then let’s play wait and see until the road improvement is done and then reassess whether it’s true or not.
Whether the bus owners really provide a service or are just out there to grab people’s money.
We have come a long way, yet we haven’t grown up and mature as leaders.
Leaders who would seek the best interests of the citizens of this country and have the political will to do their best to address those interests.
I’d finally call on you responsible authorities as it behooved us to see into this problem and be proactive and address it amicably.
Those that want to do otherwise should be stopped from operating public transport as it would not be in the best interests of the public and especially Honiara residents.
Nadi, Fiji Islands