Taxi drivers say the reduction of fares after prices of diesel and petrol dropped last month will hit them hard as operational costs have skyrocketed
| Tenzin Lhamo, Thimphu
The Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) had announced that the fares for public transport buses and taxis will drop by about Nu 0.5 to 2 per kilometer starting this month.
The move comes following the drop in fuel prices after the Indian government included petrol and diesel in its GST regime last month.
While the public at large has welcomed the move, taxi drivers say that it would be unfair if they were to slash their existing rates because the RSTA had never considered raising fares when fuel pieces skyrocketed in the past.
“There are already more than 7000 taxis in the capital alone and competition is very stiff. The amount we earn today is barely enough to sustain our families and maintenance cost are high. If RSTA reduce the existing rates it will only add to our miseries,” said Dawa, a 42-year-old cabbie from Paro.
According to him, the drop in fuel prices will only be momentary and it will rise in just a few months’ time. Moreover, they are already facing a lean season as most of the schools will close down for vacations and will have less commuters.
“The RSTA could have waited for a few more months and monitored the fuel prices and market dynamics before implementing the plan,” Dawa said, adding that today there were more taxis than is required for a small population in the country.
A member of Bhutan Taxi Association, Rinzin Chophel, said that just a week after the government announced the drop in fuel prices it increased by Nu 2 a liter for petrol.
“How can we believe that the price of fuel would remain the same as is today because it keeps on fluctuating since we import fuel from India,” Rinzin said.
Rinzin added that the fares were last revised in 2012 when petrol price was just Nu 48 a liter. Today, even after the drop, a liter of petrol cost Nu 64. “In 2015 the RSTA increased fares for passenger buses but not for taxis. It is totally unfair to us and it will hamper our earning drastically.”
RSTA officials said the revised rates, a drop of around Nu 2 per kilometer for taxis and Nu 0.5 for buses, were calculated based on their assessment and considering drop in fuel prices and other operating costs.
The revised rates came into effect starting this month.