The advent of covid-19 in our Part of the world, has left in it wake a harrowing effect on all sectors of our national life, be it the economy, educational, industrial and what have you, they have all taken a hit. One huge sector that has also not been spared the brunt of the novel corona virus pandemic is the transport sector of our country. Its indeed a sector that has a rippling effect on almost every sector of our economy, both the formal and informal sector heavy rely on transport services for their daily operation.
Following the outbreak of covid-19 in our country, government has directed that all commercial vehicle reduces their intake of passengers in compliance with the social distancing policy meant to keep us safe from the virus infection. This move has significantly impacted the profit margins of most commercial transport operators.
As if that was not enough, government failed to reduce prices of fuel at the pump when world market prices of fuel tumbled considerably following a glut in supply on the world market. In effect government looked on helplessly as these poor drivers struggled in meeting their daily sales target. With time, Prices of crude oil on the market started appreciating following a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, these drivers still endured tougher times as government callously kept increasing the fuel Prices to reflect the world market increment, with the reduction in passenger intake still in place.
When matters got to a head, the drivers started agitating for an an upward adjustment in Prices, citing the effect increment in fuel Prices and reduction in passenger intake has had on their sales margin, they therefore issued an ultimatum to government to heed their request failing which they would unilaterally effect new price changes without recourse to government.
Government sensing the enormity of the threat quickly convened a tripartite meeting of the government, driver unions and oil marketing companies to address their concern. At the end of the meeting, they unanimously agreed on an upward adjustment of 15% which was half of the 30% that was originally tabled by the drivers union, though not satisfactory to the driver union, government cajoled them into accepting it , citing the biting effect of covid-19 in the economy amongst other things as reasons why the 30% Proposal cannot be granted.
On the flip side of these whole development is another set of transport operators from the stables of government who, appears to be having a field day with respect to enforcement of the covid-19 protocols in their daily operations.
Operators of the state owned transport company, S.T.C incurred the wrath of their commuters when they failed to adhere to social distancing policy in their seating arrangement in their buses , According to the managing director, Nana Akomea, a reduction in Passenger Intake for S.T.C, would have dire consequences on the financial position of the company , which might result in halting of the salaries of staffs or at worst lay off some staffs for the company to remain afloat. He further Iintimated that, to make up for their inability to adhere to the social distancing seating arrangement, they have Provided free mask and sanitizers For passengers who board their coaches. Same set of reasons have also been advanced by operators of the metro mass transport, another state owned transport company for their inability to adhere to social distancing in their buses.
For what it’s worth, one is tempted to conclude that these are flimsy excuses being advanced by the state owned transport companies, given the fact that their contemporaries in the Private sector, whose margins are no where Theirs were complying with the directive, also the argument of substituting, usage of sanitizer and wearing of mask to the social distancing policy, is one that cannot stand any test of logical reasoning, for crying out loud, all the safety Protocols as announced are not mutually exclusive, in fact some research have shown that, strictly adhering to all the safety.
Protocols, does not in itself insulate one from contracting the virus, not to talk of practicing them in isolation. So to all Intents and Purpose, these state owned companies, would have to as a matter of urgency and necessity start practicing the social distancing seating arrangement in addition to the other safety Protocols.
It’s also unconscionable that state owned companies that are supposed to lead by example in adhering to government laid down safety Protocols are the ones flouting it whiles, poor trotro and taxi operators who’s daily margins are nothing to write home about are being for forced by the police to reduce their intake in adherence to the social distancing policy.
Imagine the defence put out by S.T.C that reducing passenger intake would affect staff emolument and juxtapose it against these helpless private operators who almost always had to endure excruciating pain on a daily basis to makes ends meet in their industry, clearly you can ,logically infer from the aforementioned, that although times are hard for everyone in Transport sector, Operators of Private transport appears worse off than the state owned companies , given the enormous privileges and subvention that their counterparts from the government end enjoys.
In conclusion, government needs to take a wholistic view of this development and fashion out a more sustainable solutions in order to restore sanity to an otherwise vibrant sector of the economy. One quick recommendation that comes to mind is the need for government to design some bail out packages for operators in these industry both government and Private sector. This has become necessary given the fact one do not know when covid-19 would subside for us to return to our normal lives, even more imperative is the fact that one can look into the crystal ball and Predict further agitation by the transport unions for further upward adjustment in fares, owing to the continuous weakening of the economy as a result of the pandemic.
Michael Tettey Ameley is a writer is a socio Political commentator and a marketing communication specialist, He has over a decade worth of experience in the banking sector. He holds an H.N.D in marketing and Bsc Marketing degree from Accra Technical University and University of Professional studies respectively.