In an effort to streamline public transport in the country, the government may lift or reduce taxes levied on public transport vehicles.
The State Minister in charge of Transport, Alex Nzahabwanimana, announced the development Thursday, in a meeting with transport operators from Rwanda Federation Transport Cooperative (RFTC).
Nzahabwanimana explained the move would encourage operators to invest more in commuter vehicles; a development he said will curtail the shortage of public transport that remains prevalent, both in Kigali City and beyond.
"We have considered the issue (tax) in the new transport policy, so, we will most likely see the taxes reduced from 50 per cent to 5 per cent to enable transport investors buy more vehicles," the minister said.
"We are looking at such incentives to attract more investments in the sector to ensure the country has a modernized and efficient public transport system," he said, adding that the new policy was ready for cabinet approval.
The minister added that the move may see taxes on private cars increased to discourage the public from buying their own cars and instead use public transport, an idea he said would help reduce congestion or traffic jam in the city.
The move to cut taxes on commuter vehicles came after complaints from the transport operators in the country saying the high taxes were discouraging them from investing more in the sector.
Speaking to this paper, Col (Rtd) Ludovic Dodo Twahirwa, the chairman of RFTC, said transport investors are waiting for the approval of the new transport policy with a lot of anticipation.
"Once this policy is approved, so many issues that have been affecting public transport will be solved; we will see transport fares reduced because we will have many vehicles on the streets," Twahirwa said.
According to Twahirwa, an omnibus with the capacity to carry 18 passengers currently costs Rwf12 million while a coaster that carries at least 30 passengers costs Rwf 58 million, which he says is very expensive to most of the operators.
RFTC management says it has not more than 1,500 taxis operating in the city.
In the draft policy, all transport operators will be requested to register with transport federations or create companies, a move the minister said will help curb the issue of losses brought about by several errant taxi operators.
The minister said all taxis will be requested to operate on time intervals to remove what he called informal practices in the sector.
"There will be no more hustle fighting for passengers among the drivers as is currently the case," Nzahabwanimana said.
Some of the operators want fares increased because of the losses incurred returning to the city from their designated routes saying that despite there being many stranded commuters in the city during peak hours; they don't get passengers on return routes.
Several Kigali City traders, in a rush to board taxis, have been closing businesses early in the evening even when they expected more customers, and queues of hundreds are seen every evening in downtown Kigali as passengers wait to board.
Meanwhile, during the meeting, Nzahabwanimana warned taxi touts against yelling at passengers saying once one is found doing so they will be punished or dismissed.
He said the directive should be implemented in a week's time and all drivers will be required to put on uniforms.
Speaking to this paper, one of the transport operators said they should be given ample time to implement the directive.
"We buy the idea but we need more time to put into practice because we need to put routes we ply to on vehicles," Celestin Habiyambere who operates in the Kigali city, said.
The minister also promised the transport operators to set up more bus stops on several city roads to curb traffic police fines they incur.