January 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM
The current nationwide increase in bus fares, which came into effect on January 1 in Vanuatu, has seriously affected many commuters in Port Vila.
The increase has no doubt given no choice for many workers and families who must now walk to work or school.
But for many, walking is a silent protest to the Land Transport Board and the Government against the new fares and only time will tell if they will continue, Vanuatu Daily Post reports.
When the adult fare was Vt100 [US$0.09] some had been spending Vt200 [US$0.18] daily, which was expensive, but affordable. They suddenly now have to pay Vt300 [US$0.27] on a daily basis.
Daily Post caught up with some commuters, most of whom shared similar concerns.
Eva Avock Joely, an average working mother who lives in Ohlen told Daily Post that the new bus fare has affected her family because now they have to spend almost Vt100 for school pupils alone, which is similar to what an adult used to pay in the past.
"In the past we used to spend less but now it’s doubled what we spent as some of the bus drivers are even charging our children Vt100 instead of Vt70.
"It’s very expensive for my family," she said.
Mabonsue Berthy who lives at Freshwota Two expressed similar concerns, saying it is unfair for infants under four years to pay Vt50 as their parents could still carry them in a bus.
"I am now walking to my workplace because if I spend Vt300 everyday I will not be able to afford for my other needs.
"Bus fares should be charged according to the distance travelled," she said.
For many they must now weigh the importance of their expenses based on their importance to their families.
"I think it is better to spend my Vt200 on a kilo of rice rather than on bus fare.
"I will only use a bus when it rains because with my salary the increase is beyond my means," said young Ohlen resident Tom Napuati.
On the other hand some bus drivers admitted the increase does affect families.
Bob Iobil said while the new increase will benefit bus owners, he admitted it is expensive.
"Some of us are still not earning what we expect as many people are walking but we are hoping the situation will improve in the coming weeks," he said.
There were many, however, who said the increase was justifiable.
Derrick David has been a bus driver since the bus fare was Vt70 in the 1980s and told Daily Post the increase was timely, as it will helps bus owners maintain their services.
"The increase is good because our road conditions are not good, spare parts are expensive and the fuel price is unstable," he said.
Mr David also said although the increase was good, the lack of control on the number of buses being issued licenses was shrinking the market.
He also pointed out that with Vt100 drivers were struggling to reach their target of between Vt8, 000 [US$73.00] and Vt10, 000 [US$91.00] per day.
And while he admitted they have witnessed a dramatic decline in customers, they believe people will eventually tire of walking and adapt to the new fares.
The adult fare used to be Vt70 just after independence but was then increased to Vt100 in 1996.