Picture: The Global Green Growth Institute
By MAKERETA KOMAI
Bus commuters can expect a drop in fares across the board for the next six months from August 1 after the Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced a Government subsidy of $6 million in the 2022-2023 National Budget.
During the announcement of the budget in Parliament this month, Mr Sayed-Kahiyum said the Fijian Government would subsidise bus fares by 10 per cent.
In May, the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC) approved a 36.30 per cent increase in bus fares for all stages.
This development taken a financial toll on some Fijians in the lower income bracket.
Caubati resident Isimeli Sucubogidrau has been commuting on the bus to and from work up until the increase in fare.
The 26-year-old said the increase was now a financial burden especially when he was the sole breadwinner in the family, holding a job with minimum wage.
“To save costs, I now walk to my worksite in Walu Bay. The few dollars I am able to save by doing this helps to cater for other family expenses like utility bills,” he said.
With Fiji’s wage rate sitting at $3.67 per hour, minimum wage earners continue to feel the rippling effects of the bus fare increase. Cleaner Sereana Asioli said the bus fare increase had taken up a huge portion of her weekly wages.
“A day’s worth of wages is spent on bus fare alone. I work at various sites during the week, which means paying different fares each way,’’ said the 32-year-old.
“To counter the cost, I would sometimes carpool with friends after work.”
Meanwhile, FCCC chief executive officer Joel Abraham had said a number of factors were considered in the decision to increase fares, including critical historical data, increase in fuel prices, consumables and bus maintenance.
He said the increase was deemed necessary for the sustainability of the Fijian bus industry. Bus fares had gone up from 75 cents to $1.02 for stage one, an increase of 43 cents for stage two from $1.18 to $1.61 and 71 cents more for stage three from $1.95 to $2.66.