Commuters are bearing the brunt of the ongoing standoff between operators and the regulator over disbursement of the government subsidy to cushion transport companies over losses occasioned by Covid-19.
Particularly, the transport firms, whose combined loss from the pandemic stood at over Rwf8 billion as at August, are struggling to cope under a low tariff structure imposed to deal with public outcry over the increment in October.
Despite the government’s promise to compensate for the difference between the current Rwf22-Rwf21 per kilometer tariff and the actual tariff rates at Rwf25.9 and Rwf28.9 per kilometer in Kigali and upcountry respectively, no disbursement has been done several months later, Rwanda Today has learnt.
The transport firms indicate that they had been receiving everything on loan from their service providers who include fuel importers and spare parts dealers until recently when they demanded all pending debt arrears cleared before they can allow any more borrowing.
Their decision, which saw commuting service come to a standstill on December 14, coincided with the government’s restrictions requiring all public transport firms to carry half the fleet capacity to curb spikes in Covid-19 infections.
Rwanda Today established that amid challenges to fund operations, bus companies since parked some of their fleet as promised to receive subsidy again fell short of outlining modalities and timelines.
“Everyone we owe a debt thought that we got the money and we should pay. They demand that they pay them or sign cheques for them, which we cannot do when there is no details on when to expect the money,” said Nille Muneza, Royal Express manager.
“What commuters pay is not even enough to cover the cost of fuel, let alone paying workers and other operational costs like buying spare parts.”
Estimates by individual service providers in transport show debts arrears by transport firms started accumulating since after the national lockdown, and rose to higher levels, threatening their survival.
The Rwanda Association of Petroleum Products Importers for instance indicates that bus companies owed a combined debt of over Rwf4 billion as at last week when they went back to carrying 50 per cent capacity.