…urges Cabinet to make timely interventionFormer President Bharrat Jagdeo has said he wants a timely and effective intervention from the Government on the issue of hikes in the prices of fuels, and has recalled that his Administration would have dealt with increases in fuel prices on the world market in a particular manner.Opposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoWith the rise in fuel prices having spawned protests from several sections of society, Government has announced that Cabinet would deliberate on this issue.Jagdeo is, however, unimpressed with this approach to the issue. During a recent press conference, the former president recalled that when he was in office, issues of this sort used to be solved by one phone call.“Cabinet (is) to explore options of what they will do about fuel prices? (Back then, former Finance Minister) Ashni Singh would call me and say, ‘The prices have gone up, and here is the room’; because we moved up the prices when the prices were low, and we dropped them when the prices were high, as a stabiliser. And I (would) say, ‘Okay, go ahead’, as president.“And I’m sure he did the same thing with (former President Donald) Ramotar…The prices have moved, that’s what you do!” Jagdeo said.“They now need a whole Cabinet to explore this about what they do with the fuel. Is this not total incompetence?” he asked rhetorically.When the announcement of Cabinet considering the issue was made, it was noted that times are different. In defending the Government’s caution, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had specifically alluded to considerations about Guyana’s Balance of Payments’ situation.Minibus and hire car operators have already protested the hike in fuel prices. Some have called for the Government to look into the situation urgently, as they are practically on the breadline.It has been related that because the rice industry is failing, many farmers have turned to the transportation sector for their survival. These drivers have also contended that if Government does not intervene, there is likely to be a hike in crime.FrustrationsOnly last week, President of the United Minibus Union (UMU), Eon Andrews, had cause to vent his frustration over Government’s slow approach to a proposal submitted to the Business Ministry over a week ago.Andrews expressed dissatisfaction over Government’s seemingly careless attitude towards tackling the woes of the minibus and transportation sector at large.Andrews’s proposal had not only been for a fare increase, but several other requests in regard to the transportation sector, with the hope of having several issues plaguing that sector addressed.He had contended that, instead of leaving the union proverbially at sea, the Business Ministry should have informed the Union that several other Ministries would have to be consulted on the matter before a determination is made.“I noticed in (Guyana Times where he (Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin) had indicated that he got to — because of the nature of the thing (proposal) — he has to consult the other relevant ministers. But he had not indicted that to me, and that would have been good if he had said that to us, so that we would have known we would have had to wait a little bit. I don’t know why the Government is wasting our time,” Andrews had declared.He added that, under the previous administration, such matters were given more urgency, especially since it is one which has a chain effect on not only drivers, but commuters as well.“They (the previous administration) would have dealt with it, even if we had to just talk. They would have called us in already, we would have been talking…they always would have called us in quickly,” he said.The Union head has said he is concerned that minibus operators might take certain actions which may very well affect commuters, if the Government does not deal with the issue in a timely manner.According to him, it is not the UMU’s vision to exploit commuters, but to set fares which are “fair to everyone”. Andrews has said he is aware of cases in which passengers are being made to pay increases in transportation fares as high as $60, when all that the UMU has requested is a $20 increase for short drop drivers, and $40 increase for drivers who travel longer distances.“We are concerned because, if they (minibus drivers) take action, it means that especially the travelling public, they will punish. There may be persons who may react to those increases; and, you know, there might be some violence and Police story and these kinds of things. So I don’t think that’s the way anybody wants us to go. So I think that the Government ought to do something quickly,” the UMU president had posited.