September 29, 2006

Transport version of Produce and Commodities Act needed

Transportation is an important part of economic development and communications. History has shown that with the advent of mass transit overland systems, there was an expansion in the mass media, specifically newspapers; the spreading of views and concepts across a county; and the deepening of the democratic movement.

Similarly, commerce also spread from the coastal towns, inland.

Trains and other overland mass transit systems also provided transportation for people going to the commercial centres to find work and this boosted the economy.{{more}}

Transportation remains an important part of the economy. A negative impact in the transport sector ripples through the economy.

Without passing judgment on the impasse between the government and the National Omni Buses Association which led to last week’s strike, numerous issues arose and we hope that both sides would devise a lasting solution within the interest of national development.

One of the responsibilities of good governance is to ensure that the wheels for the critical functioning of a society and economy are allowed to turn without hindrance and where one of these is not being managed properly or is absent then one expects the government to step in, establish it, put it on a sound, sustainable path and then hand over to the private sector.

However, while some functions can be totally handed over, others must be shared, and some retained totally within the domain of the government.

For example, if there were no supermarkets in a society and it was deemed that supermarkets would provide a better service than a house-to-house bartering system, then one expects the government to set up a supermarket, run it successfully as an example to show how it is done and then relinquish control as private sector supermarkets spring up.

It is this sort of argument and thinking that is embedded in the

now controversial Produce and Commodities Act.

In light of the impact of the NOBA strike, government ought to give serious consideration to a public transport version of the Produce and Commodities Act. Given the absolute essential nature of public transport, this important element of economic development cannot be left totally within the hands of the private sector. Government must also be part of the public transport business.

One of the follies of development is to believe that we can import wholesale examples from other countries and that somehow would solve our problems. This is not so.

Elsewhere in this edition, we examine the features of the Barbados public transport system but this is not to say that we should import these features wholesale. The Barbados system is riddled with problems and enforcement challenges. We therefore have to import the wheat and discard the chaff.

It must be a system which is workable and agreeable by all stakeholders.

There is also a suggestion elsewhere in this edition for the creation of more bus terminals around the island to spur economic development in places like Layou and the once bustling Georgetown.

The current system in St Vincent and the Grenadines is disorganized and left to the whims and fancy of the operators.

Government must listen to the people. NOBA must listen to the people.

Both parties must work to bring a reliable and customer-oriented transport system to the people, recognising that the better the system the more it works to improve economic and social development.