Mozambique: Transport Operators Angered By Fuel Price Rise

Maputo — The Mozambican Federation of Road Transport Operators (Fematro) has threatened that its Maputo members may pull their vehicles off the roads, unless they receive help from the government, reports Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax".

Interviewed by the paper, Fematro chairperson Castigo Nhamane said transport operators in the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area could not continue to operate with the current costs of transport. He urged the government to find mechanisms that would make transport a viable business.

He was speaking after a meeting with Maputo operators which discussed the position to be taken towards the latest increase in fuel prices. As of Tuesday, the price of diesel rose by 11.3 per cent, and that of petrol by 7.6 per cent.

Even before this increase, "the situation was extremely bad", said Nhamane. Operators had been allowed to put up their fares by two meticais (3.1 US cents, at the current exchange rate) in January, but that had all been devoured by subsequent increases in fuel prices. He accused the government of "a lack of will" to understand the real situation of the transport business.

The increases in fuel prices so far this year, Nhamane claimed, had put an extra 17 meticais onto the cost of a litre of diesel, the fuel normally used in buses and minibuses. Nhamane claimed that most of the price of fuel ends up in the government's pockets though taxation - but the government says it slashed diesel and petrol taxes by four meticais per litre in order to reduce the impact of the price rises.

Nhamane wanted to oblige passengers to pay for the increased fuel costs - he could see no way forward other than an increase in bus fares. Some of the participants at Tuesday's meeting wanted to press ahead with a unilateral fare rise.

But, after a great deal of discussion, the meeting agreed "to wait a little while", for the government's response. A meeting will be held, probably on Friday, between the transport operators, the Maputo and Matola municipalities, the Transport Ministry and the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Agency.

In addition to the fuel price rises, the operators also protested at the costs of other inputs. such as batteries and oils, and of the tolls now being charged along the Maputo Ring Road.

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