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When there is competition, the people benefit, says Mayor Wagner

HighlightsWhen there is competition, the people benefit, says Mayor Wagner

The Mayor of Belize City says that the City Council is in no way looking to put anyone out of business when it comes to the new electric bus pilot program and is merely giving residents the option to choose.

by Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 29, 2022

When it comes to Belize’s transport system, there is a lot to be desired. Those were the sentiments expressed by Belize City Mayor, Bernard Wagner in an interview with KREM News this week—sentiments shared by a large portion of the Belizean populace.

According to the Mayor, contrary to the belief expressed by the Belize Bus Association that the “Driving Belize to Electric Mobility” pilot project will displace current operators, the project, which is being implemented in the City with the help of the UNDP and the EU, is aimed at giving the transport system a much needed facelift after decades of stagnation.

Through the program, Belize City will be receiving a total of three electric buses which the Mayor says will be fully equipped with the latest technology.

“Our endgame is really to serve our people. Our residents deserve the best. That is how I look at it. That is how my council looks at it. We have been experiencing situations where residents have been getting wet on buses. We have to, as the leaders, be able to give the best to our residents. They deserve the best, and these operators have had years and years to improve their buses, and they have done nothing to improve their companies,” said Mayor Wagner.

The new buses will not prevent current bus owners from operating on their usual routes. What they will do, says the Mayor, is grant the residents of Belize City a choice.

“The existing buses will continue to do their route. The people will have the choice—do I want to support BBOC or do I want to get on a modern A/C bus that is efficient, that is reliable, and that is contributing to the lowering of CO2 in our city that contributes overall to the climate change impacts that are taking place around the world,” he said.

In addition to providing buses that are powered by electricity and equipped with WIFI, the pilot project will also allow for the development of a bus tracking app. This will allow passengers to keep track of the arrival times of buses.

“It will be very, very affordable, cost-wise. It will be so affordable for the residents of this city. And so I hear the nonsense that is being spoken by some of the bus owners—they want to keep progress down, and that is where we go our separate ways,” added the Mayor.

The Council, said Mayor Wagner, in no way desires a monopoly over the city’s buses.

“Competition is very important, because you know when competition happens the people benefit, and that is what we’re trying to do here as well,” he stated.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Belize Bus Association (BBA) and Belize City Shuttle had sent a letter to the resident representative of the United Nations Development Program to object to the manner in which the pilot project was being implemented—without the involvement of the current bus operators, whose revenue streams might be disrupted.

“We propose that the pilot be executed with the existing stakeholders,” the letter stated.

The Tuesday issue of the AMANDALA referred to remarks made by the owner of Belize City Shuttle, Philip Jones, who said that the existing bus operators are the most appropriate entities to implement the pilot project in partnership with the government and UNDP, and it mentioned the BBA’s assertion in the letter that the bus operators have “extensive real-life experience with managing bus fleets and years of commitment to the development of the industry.”

“Why are we excluded from sitting with the UNDP along with the members that are getting this grant? We should be a part of this; we shouldn’t be excluded. If you say you want to improve the transportation industry, who is the fittest one? We have real-time experience, knowledge. We have been doing this from we jumped out of pampers, most of us. So why is it that we are not included?” Jones questioned.

The Tuesday issue of the AMANDALA noted that Jones questioned how a pilot project could be done with no inclusion of members of the bus association and quoted him as saying, “You can’t put us at a disadvantage. You cannot do that; that’s unfair for the association; that’s unfair for the bus industry.”

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