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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Don’t phase out 14-seaters, say Central leaders

CENTRAL Kenya ODM caucus has condemned the government's move to deregister 14 seater matatus, saying policy will hurt the region's economy. The group is now threatening to forward the matter to Prime Minister Raila Odinga's office should Cooperatives Development minister Joe Nyaga fail to heed to its demand to revoke the directive.
Led by five county chairmen from the larger Central Province, the group lashed out at Amos Kimunya's Transport ministry's plans which it said will adversely affect livelihoods of various people from the community. Addressing the media yesterday in Nairobi, Murang'a County chairman Michael Rubia said the matatus are a major employer of the youth and numerous families.
He said if the government makes good its threat to deregister the matatus, Central will be worst hit as it commands over 80 per cent stake of ownership in the country. “We cannot speak of a public transport system in Kenya without mentioning the key role that is played by the 14-seater matatus,” Rubia said.
Elsewhere, Matatu Owners Association is calling on the government to go slow on its intention to phase out the popular 14-seater matatus, which have been blamed for the endemic traffic snarl up especially in the city and its environs. MOA chairman, Simon Kimutai yesterday appealed for more time on the implementation of the order, which came into effect on January 3, saying the operators needed more time to organise themselves.
In a paid up advert in a local daily, Kimutai said, “More time is needed in organising appropriate financing to make this a reality.” He blamed the current harsh economic environment the country is facing, which he said has contributed to the sector not meeting its target for a realistic transformation. “We are the people on the ground, and we can now state out of experience that the market still needs the 14 seater,” he said, and urged the government to be considerate to other stakeholders so as to reap maximum benefits from the operation.
While regretting the government's refusal to register matatus for the last one year, Rubia termed the country's policy as a wrong move that has resulted in huge losses and inconveniences. He wondered if the government has put in place alternative employment opportunities for the thousands of youth and families who will be affected when the ban finally comes into effect.
He instead challenged the government to improve the road network prior to phasing out the matatus: “Until such a time that the roads are improved, there will always be need for the matatus.” He called upon the government to fight corruption on the roads, to insist on roadworthy vehicles, and act on errant operators who continue to taint the sector's image. “The solution is not to kill the sector but to facilitate its proper growth, for the economy to grow,” Rubia said, and scoffed at transport ministry's refusal to recognize the critical role played by matatus.

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