Transporters in a spin as fuel jumps further

Summary

  • Bus owners say they will meet and come up with a common stand after fuel prices rose sharply yesterday, a few days after the land transport regulator announced new bus fares, which operators dismissed as too low

Dar es Salaam. Another sharp rise in fuel prices has sent shock waves among transporters, who believe that recent fare increases do not make any business sense.

A litre of diesel now costs Sh566 more in Dar es Salaam, while diesel has risen by Sh287 in new cap prices announced by the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (Ewura) on Tuesday, and which came into effect yesterday.

A litre of diesel imported through Tanga and Mtwara ports will cost Sh485 and Sh498 more, while petrol will cost an extra Sh313 and Sh499, respectively.

Consumers Dar es Salaam are now paying Sh3,148, Sh3,258 and Sh3,112 for a litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene, respectively.

In Tanga, new prices are Sh3,161, Sh3,264 and Sh3,158 for a litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene, respectively.

The sharp increases came just five days after the Land Transport Regulatory Authority (Latra) announced new fares for commuter and long-distance buses, which will come into effect on May 14.

Commuters will pay a minimum of Sh500, up from Sh400, while long distance travellers will pay 11 and six percent more for every kilometre for ordinary and semi-luxury buses, respectively.


Emergency meeting

But much as the fares, which were announced on April 30, were still far from transporters’ expectations, yesterday’s further increase in fuel prices has exacerbated the situation, prompting bus operators to call an emergency meeting to deliberate on the way forward.

“We have seen the new prices. We will hold a joint meeting with members of Taboa (Tanzania Bus Owners Association) so that we can come up with a common position,” Dar es Salaam Commuter Bus Owners Association (Darcoboa) chairman Kisimati Jaffar told The Citizen yesterday.

He said they would decide after deliberations whether to continue with business or otherwise.


Unrealistic fares

Before yesterday’s rise, Mr Jaffar said they would write to Latra to request another fare increase of between Sh200 and Sh300.

This, he said, would be done as soon as last month’s fare adjustments take effect on May 14.

“It is not realistic for Latra to increase commuter fares by only Sh100. This adjustment is too small, considering the fact that fuel prices have risen steeply since fares were last increased,” he said.

Taboa spokesperson Mustafa Mwalongo echoed similar sentiments when he spoke to The Citizen earlier this week, noting that the new fares did not meet their expectations.

“Operating costs are not only about fuel. There are other expenses that operators incur. For example, a bus travelling from Dar es Salaam to Bukuba must pass through several bus stations where charges are levied. These charges are too high for us to bear. We also buy tyres and other spare parts, whose prices have also gone up steeply,” he said.


Unnecessary spending

But Latra said before the new fuel prices came into effect that they would meet bus owners tomorrow to deliberate on ways of minimising their operating costs, including ridding bus stations of touts.

Latra director general Gilliard Ngewe told The Citizen that before announcing the new fares, the authority consulted with all the relevant bodies, including Ewura, to ensure that the rates were realistic and made business sense.

“In calculating the fares, we also considered operating costs. The biggest challenge here is how operators collect fares. It is unfortunate that they incur unnecessary expenses because they involve touts,” he said.

Mr Ngewe added that operators should reduce the cost of touts to enable them to operate profitably. “That is why we plan to meet with bus operators and the authorities in charge of the Magufuli Bus Terminal to see how to cut out touts,” he said.

He added that if Latra had included expenses borne through touts when reviewing fares, the new fares would be much higher.


Sh500 levy

Meanwhile, the opposition ACT-Wazalendo reiterated its call to the government to temporarily suspend the Sh500 levy on every litre of petrol, diesel and kerosene as a way of bringing fuel prices down.

Echoing what the ACT-Wazalendo spokesperson for information, information technology and transport, Mr Ally Saleh, said earlier this week, party leader Zitto Kabwe wrote on his Twitter page: “The government should reduce the levies it collects from pump prices to the tune of Sh500 per litre of diesel in order to reduce the spiralling cost of living linked to transport. These are not normal times.”

ACT-Wazalendo said earlier this week that it was aware that by suspending the levy, the government’s budget would have a monthly shortfall of Sh220 billion.

“We thus recommend the temporary suspension of disbursement of funds for the purchase of airplanes. The government should also rein in its spending to bridge the shortfall,” the party said.