KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 – SHOULD the Transport Ministry approve the 30 per cent bus fare hike proposed by public transport providers and supported by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), then, passengers would be considerably out of pocket. If one’s current bus fare is RM1 (a paltry sum almost non-existent these days), with the approval the fare rises to RM1.30.
When one is a commuter, in a single day one would be paying an extra 60 sen. For a five-day work week that totals RM3. In a month this will amount to roughly RM12. It may not seem much, but, to those living on a minimum wage of RM900 a month (those who most dependent on the bus service) this is a sizeable portion of their monthly income. And, when the journey is long, the increase in money terms can be considerable.
What is the point of promises to exempt the cost of public transportation from the Goods and Services Tax when the proposed fare hike is way over the GST’s six per cent? Furthermore, the GST will impact on the cost of taking a taxi because taxi rentals are subject to it. Between the application for a fare increase of between 30 and 40 per cent and the tax burden, the consumer with few alternatives is a captive.
Those with alternatives, meaning, a car, will again clog the roads and increase the country’s carbon footprint, and, of course, contribute to global warming. When public transport is put beyond the means of those most needing it, then the outcome is obvious and negative to the nation’s wellbeing. Even when taking into consideration operating costs that must, under the recent inflationary pressures, have increased, the fact remains that 30 per cent is a huge jump that pockets already shallow must bear on top of the bad service they are subject to on a daily basis.
Buses are notorious for their irregularity, adding unnecessary hours to journeys which are normally ones that take a passenger to and from work. The resultant stress translates into heavier demands on a healthcare that, no matter how good it has become in recent years, is unnecessarily stretched to the limits. That it adds to inefficiencies affecting the economy cannot be understated.
Why, then, should one industry be singled out for mollycoddling? Taxis are no better. Although it is illegal, they turn down inconvenient fares all the time. And because this is rampant, a negotiated fare instead of metered fare becomes the norm, especially during peak hours. SPAD’s function is to protect the interests of consumers: to ensure safety standards, efficiency and affordability.
Arbitrary fare rises are illegal because of this. But, when it positions itself as the champion of public transport operators, empathetic to their grouses even while failing to demand the necessary operating standards from them, something is amiss. SPAD’s duty to the public is obviously not the priority it should be.