FREE AT LAST: Taxi plate moratorium lifted after nearly three decades, but leasing continues

FREE AT LAST: Taxi plate moratorium lifted after nearly three decades, but leasing continues
Bahamas Taxicab Union (BTU) president Wesley Ferguson

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government has moved to lift the nearly-three decades long moratorium on the issuance of taxi plates, according to Bahamas Taxicab Union (BTU) president Wesley Ferguson.

After 27 years, Ferguson told Eyewitness News Online the historic move was confirmed at a meeting with Transport minister Renward Wells yesterday.

He welcomed the move as a positive step to alleviate the ‘hardship’ faced by some in the industry.

Still, Ferguson noted the practice of leasing taxi plates will continue as the issue is “too complex”.

“The moratorium has been lifted on taxi plates,” Ferguson said yesterday.

“We have been mandated to provide the government with a comprehensive list of those who have been in the business for 20 years or more. Apparently the moratorium would not include everyone who is leasing because it is a little more complex than the minister had anticipated.

“There are too many lives that would be affected,” Ferguson continued.

“He will just issue some plates that are in escrow at the Road Traffic Department and in addition to that lift the ceiling in accordance with our recommendation, so that will give him an idea of how many plates to issue.”

The government lifted the moratorium exclusively on Exuma earlier this year, with the Prime Minister announcing the move in March.

At the time, Wells said other family islands would also see the ban lifted in a ‘holistic’ manner.

In June, Wells announced in Parliament the establishment of a Cabinet sub-committee tasked to make recommendations regarding issues pertaining to the recall of all plates, inactive plates, renewal of franchises, and plates in estates.

Yesterday, Ferguson said: “As far as I am concerned I think it is a good move on the minister’s behalf that he is finally taking advice from the union and those in the industry.

“What it does is alleviate a lot of hardship on taxi drivers but because of the complexity of the leasing issue, leasing will continue. Some very powerful people are in possession of these taxi plates and they are not going to give it up without a fight.

Ferguson said: “If the government goes through the process of ending leasing right away, taking back the taxi plates and reissuing them, a legal battle will ensue and bring the industry to a screeching halt.

“We advised the government not to go that route,” he added.