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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Real Subsidy That Nigerians Need By Ben Bruce


Ben Murray-Bruce

Subsidizing Transport for the Poor: An Initiative
~ By Ben Murray Bruce

A good plan is only as important as the willingness to execute it. Since Independence in 1960, successive administrations have paid little attention to the poor.

Government has played the role of Robin Hood, unfortunately though in reverse: they have taken from the poor to subsidize and sustain the rich.

I urge the Federal Government to reverse that role and play the real Robin Hood, and now take from the rich and give to the poor.

This simply means that they must ensure that the rich make the same sacrifice that the poor have made and continue to make. After all, it is not a sin to be poor.

The government of Nigeria must practice what it preaches. If it does and implements the Ben Bruce Transport Policy it will go a long way in easing the untold hardship the increase in the cost of petrol will have on the Nigerian masses.

The Ben Bruce transport policy is simple, realistic and very achievable. I propose $2 billion annually for 10 years. This will re-invent and re-build the transport sector of Nigeria and alleviate the sufferings of the Nigerian people and at the same time grow our economy.

I demand for the Nigerian masses a $500 million fund to subsidize bus and taxi services in Nigeria. I want that subsidy at 50 per cent of the cost for all Nigerians. Many other developing and advanced economies have subsidized their transport sectors. For instance, Brazil by 70 per cent, South Africa by 34 per cent, Chile by 57 per cent, the UK by 49 per cent, Belgium by 69 per cent and Finland by 65 per cent.

We all know the problems that have plagued our nation for decades. We all know the untold hardship our people have been through, and so did the Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo- Kuti as emphasized in many of his songs.

One of the focal points of my plan is that all school children in uniform, senior citizens over 60 and children under 10 must travel free of charge by public transportation under this plan. Transport fares should not rise because the government should pay the difference of deregulation immediately to the transport sector. I estimate that we spend N50 billion annually on transport fare. Deregulation will double that and make it N100 billion.

The additional N50 billion should be paid by the government. And equally important, I propose an additional $500 million annual intervention fund at 5 per cent interest over five years provided by the banks and guaranteed by the Federal Government to be used to buy fuel efficient cars and buses.

These vehicles must be among the top 5 most fuel efficient in the world and most importantly, they must be duty free.

I don’t have to be psychic or a soothsayer to know that the money that will accrue to government from deregulation is more than enough to pay for the purchase of such vehicles, with an estimate of N3 million for Cars, N11 million for mini buses and N16m for bigger buses. Old cars and buses should be brought to designated centres, where they can be purchased for at least N300,000 each and crushed, so they are taken out of circulation and will reduce the carnage on our roads.

The money will be used as a down payment towards the purchase of new cars and buses. This should also apply to any Nigerian who wishes to purchase a fuel efficient vehicle. We must transform bus drivers into bus owners and taxi drivers into taxi owners and make it easy for the Nigerian working class to own cars. $500 million is also needed to provide infrastructure for the buses and taxis such as depots for overnight parking/garaging of the buses, fueling, repairs and maintenance etc. A depot could be built to accommodate as many as 500 buses.

BUS TERMINALS: This is the location for buses to park and wait for passengers. Terminals should also have passenger facilities such as restaurants, conveniences, shops, fuel stations and a bus washing bay. Bus Terminals should be located at the ends of bus corridors in urban areas and at critical intersections in the inter state mass transit systems Bus Shelters and;
LAY BY’S: for buses to pick up and drop passengers, along bus corridors in urban areas without affecting the general traffic flow. They should be located at 200 metre intervals on both sides of the bus corridors in urban areas. This is what you have on Ikorodu Road in Lagos.

To make my plan work, $500 million must also be provided by government to replace old, unsafe and uneconomical trucks. The same principle applies, but they will not get subsidy because they use diesel which had been deregulated long before the deregulation of petrol even became an issue.

The government must set up a Transport Regulatory Authority to regulate the industry.
Nigeria will spend in 10 years exactly 20 per cent of the savings that will accrue from the removal of subsidy.



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