• by

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), in its COVID-19 stimulus and recovery package, allocated funds for registered minivan operators who have been affected by the global pandemic.

Insurance costs, however, will not be subsidized.

Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves disclosed this while speaking on XtremeFM on Friday (May 15).

This a concern that has been raised as the number of passengers allowed to travel on buses at any one time has been reduced to nine due to COVID-19. Most minivans are licensed to carry 18 passengers.

“No no no, we not giving any subsidy towards insurance cost,” Gonsalves asserted.

Gonsalves continued, “the government can’t do everything you know. We have greater expenditure but we have reduced revenue. So we have to mobilize other resources and be creative in having the requisite sums of money, to get what we want to get done, to do several things: to strengthen the social safety net; facilitate economic recovery and to provide a stimulus in different areas of the community and the businesses.”

“…In relation to the minibus operators, they have a moratorium on the payment of their principle and interest (on loans) at the bank, that’s a big big saving during this time… that’s a big help, and that is not to be underestimated.”

“They’re also consumers of electricity, and they have essentially five months in which they don’t have to pay any electricity… so there is lots of relief during this time of Covid.

Gonsalves spoke on the first stimulus payment that operators received on Tuesday May 12, 2020.

“The minibus operators they get $500 a month. We just pay out close to 400 of them. The bigger buses got $600. Of course taxis got and so on and so forth at the airport and the cruise ship berth… we’re taking care of all of them,” Gonsalved informed.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

Operators collecting stimulus payment (Facebook photo: VINTAS)

Gonsalves advised that the second payment will be made towards the end of June, 2020, after which a reassessment will be done as the programme may have to be extended.

The prime minister also informed that fuel prices have been reduced, indicating that operators can benefit from this as well.

“And very critically, as of today (Fri May 15), gasoline price has dropped by $2.30 per gallon. Diesel by about $2.50 per gallon.”

Gonsalves further mentioned the sanitization programme, noting that operators are required by law to sanitize their buses. He encouraged them to do so.

“The minibus operators have an obligation in law to keep their buses clean and sanitized, that’s one of the laws you know, a lot of people don’t know that and they can pull you off the road. We are providing sanitization for them.”

“…I’m encouraging operators to do this. We have had about 3000 instances of sanitzation since it began, but some buses are not coming in, they’re not doing the extent of the sanitzation and I’m encouraging them to do so.

“I want to say to them… if the police, sends the list of buses which are not going to do the sanitzation, I can assure you that you will not get the second $500,” the prime minister declared.

Prime Minister Gonsalves concluded, expressing that the government has provided significant help to the operators, acknowledging that this does not alleviate all burdens.

“We have gone a significant way towards helping minibuses. I’m not saying that they don’t still have pressure, but I’m trying to ease the pain and the suffering in a great measure. And I think we’re succeeding.”