Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Bus operators plead for govt aid ahead of Budget 2022

The Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association says its members suffered heavy losses throughout the MCO period and are still struggling to recover today.

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The umbrella group for bus operators in the country has called for government assistance ahead of the tabling of Budget 2022 this week, to help them recover from the various lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association (PMBOA) said financial troubles in the bus industry actually began several decades ago, with many operators now living from hand to mouth each day.

“Under the movement control order (MCO), the bus industry was categorised as an essential service, so bus companies continued operating,” PMBOA president Mohamad Ashfar Ali said.

“But travel was limited and very few passengers took the bus. This saw many operators suffering a loss in revenue.”

A measure of hope returned this month when interstate travel was allowed for the fully vaccinated from Oct 11 onwards.

But Ashfar said the response so far was still not enough to cover the losses suffered throughout the year.

“We’ve had an increase in the number of passengers lately but many people are still worried about taking the bus. The number of trips we make is not the same as it used to be.”

In order to turn a profit, he said, buses need a passenger load of more than 50%.

“Buses still under hire-purchase need to a passenger load of 70%,” he added.

Ashfar said PMBOA had come up with several suggestions agreed to by 110 bus companies across the country, including the introduction of a scheme to provide free training for those who wish to become bus drivers.

He said the transportation industry had been facing a lack of drivers for the past 20 years.

He also suggested an exemption from income tax and excise tax to reduce the operating costs
of bus companies, citing the rising cost of replacing vehicle chassis and spare parts.

PMBOA is also proposing a blanket subsidy of 75% of workers’ monthly salary for the duration of the MCO and the following three months.

“A large number of our drivers and workers earn more than RM2,000 a month, and the subsidies given are not enough to cover their monthly wages, especially as our members are still paying full salaries despite not generating any income,” Ashfar said.

The association is also requesting an exemption from the fees for Puspakom checks until December 2022, in addition to a similar exemption from the permit processing fee by the Land Public Transport Agency.

He said a reduction in charges would help lower the costs for bus drivers during and after the MCO.

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