UWP Plans Campaign.
THE United Workers Party (UWP) has given the government an ultimatum to either put the annual vehicle licences fees on hold or find itself being forced to act in the interest of the people.
The challenge was issued by Guy Joseph, former Transport Minister, yesterday at a press conference chaired by the party’s political leader Allen Chastanet.
The theme of “enough is enough” was heard throughout the press conference by both Joseph and Chastanet with the latter placing his emphasis on what he called the poor treatment dished out to students by the government.
But it was Joseph who set the tone when he asked whether government intended to reduce Saint Lucians to riding bicycles, donkeys or a horses when it increased the annual licence fees for vehicles?
“I am appealing to all Saint Lucians that we are giving the government some time to review this matter and report to the country what reprieve will be given. And if the government cannot give us some reprieve we will have to take the appropriate action to force the hand of government to act in the interest of the people of Saint Lucia,” Joseph said.
Vehicle owners started paying higher licence fees as of Tuesday., In some cases the new rates were twice the old ones.
The increases were announced last week by Allison Jean, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport who at the time explained that the revenue generated by the licences would go towards the rehabilitation of roads in the country, but that amount ($3.5 million) would not be sufficient since it cost government $1.5 million to rehabilitate one mile of road.
She also brought into the picture the weight of a vehicle and its degree of road deterioration that it could cause, meaning that the heavier a vehicle the higher its degree of road deterioration.
Jean further noted that it has always been an imperative by the multi-lateral agencies that government adopt a vehicle weight control management system and charge fees that would be commensurate with the deterioration that is caused on the roads.
However, Joseph is not in agreement with Jean, whom he says is not public servant but a political appointee, and called on the Ministry to give Saint Lucians a reprieve in an age of rising prices on almost everything.
“We are asking the government to revisit this matter to put these new licence fees on hold and to give some reprieve to the people of Saint Lucia,” Joseph said.
He challenged Jean’s reference of a weight control management system for the country asking that “when an engineer designs a road isn’t the road designed to bear a certain weight and a certain capacity?”
Joseph believes it is wrong to increase the licence fee for road rehabilitation when the roads are supposed to be built to a certain standard?
Where heavier vehicles like trucks are concerned, he believes that government collects enough duties on the various parts used by the heavier vehicles, like tyres for example for them not to have to increase the licences fee.
“Now I have a big problem. When we were introducing the tax at Hewanorra International Airport saying only the people using the airport will pay for the airport, we were criticized by this present government that it was not right that we were blocking tourists from coming to the country because we were making the price exorbitant. So I want to ask the government, are you saying to the average Saint Lucian that you do not want them to own a vehicle?” Joseph asked.
The former Transport Minister said that a vehicle was a necessity today not something of a luxury which only a few people could afford.
“It seems to me that this government wants a selected set of privileged people to have vehicles and the rest of us to stand by the road and hike and be at the mercy of some people to grant us a ride. Is this government creating a class society, a society with the haves and haves not,” Joseph said vowing that his party will not stand by and let the government destroy the fabric of the society.