By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-Some taxi operators were turned away from Port Zante and the Deep Water Port in St. Kitts after they failed to produce proper decals to indicate they have undergone the proper procedure to operate in 2017 with the enforcement causing contradicting reports from one taxi operator and a tourism official.
Taxi Operator Austin Edinborough claimed that taxi operators were being denied the opportunity to work after they were refused entry into Port Zante and the Deep Water Port after they couldn’t show the proper identification despite been given a grace period until January 31 to get their act together.
Speaking to some members of the media on Wednesday afternoon, Edinborough stated that when he came to the port earlier in the day he noticed a police by a gate they had mounted just outside the Sans Complex before entering Port Zante demanding Taxi operators show a decal.
He added that though he does not have a problem with the procedure but took issue with that happening now.
“The biggest dog in collecting taxes for the government is the Inland Revenue Department. The Business License expires on December 31st and you have until January 31st to renew the license. The penalty does not begin until the first of February, and so I am saying that the Tourism Authority must comply with that.
“They can’t force you to go before Inland Revenue requires you to go. I think the right thing to do is to enforce it the first of February.”
The taxi operator explained that December and January are busy months and there is a lot of other things that have to be paid in January and was certain that that was is one of the reasons in land revenue took into consideration when they gave that grace period.
“The implementation of it today is what I have a concern with. To do it this morning when they are three ships is an indication of the irresponsibleness of the Tourism Authority the uncaring attitude for the guest and the operators.”
He explained in order to get the decal you must have the business license. He added the decal is given by the Tourism Authority and it is a stamp on the vehicle and identifies the taxi operators that have been certified to operate.
“Again I have no problem with the decal, I have no problem with enforcing it but it must be wrong to do it before the expired date for the renewal of their license.”
Edinborough also indicted that him and other taxi operators were turned away adding that he had received no notification indicating that they would be enforcing the matter and that if they had given notice, it was grossly insufficient.
“I cannot say and I wouldn’t say not notice at all was given, but if it was, it was wholly inadequate because I did not see one, I did not receive one as a businessman and I did not hear it on the radio.”
He added that it affect the operations generally on Wednesday.
“My operation was not affect because I am a taxi operator because I go out and meet people and talk to people and I will get jobs. It made it a bit more difficult but it won’t prevent me.”
Public Relations Officer in the St. Kitts Tourism Authority Saju N’galla contradicted the claims made by Edinborough by revealing that the taxi operators were informed since December and the entire December people have been renewing.
“It happens every year. You have to renew your license at Inland Revenue. They were giving almost a week, where they could have still operated and had until the 11th to renew. They were told the entire December they could have done it.
He then rebuffed claims that the operators had the entire month of January to get it renewed.
“Once your license has expired, it becomes a police matter… Once your licenses has expired whether drivers or any other there is no grace period.”
The Tourism PRO disclosed that despite the expiry date being December 31 the operators had an extra week in January to sort out the matter. He also stated that despite Wednesday being the cut-off date, they can come anytime and renew because there is no penalty.
“So come and renew and get back to business.”
N’galla also noted that as part of the renewal the vehicles have to undergo an inspection and is done not to hamper the operators but to protect the industry.
“It’s not that we are trying to find a way to hamper people, but it comes down to safety and making sure you meet the standard and that your vehicle fully suited to carry people and give visitors an exceptional experience.”
He explained that it is a real easy procedure and is done in every sector of life.
The tourism official indicated that only a handful of operators had not yet comply with the regulations for 2016.
“Nobody is against this renewal, they understands the importance. No one is against it I am sure of it.”
Taxi Operators working at Port Zante and at the Deep Water Port faced the enforcement but other Taxi stands did not face the same scrutiny but N’gala believes their efforts on Wednesday will trickle down.
“For the Marriot and for the Circus, they are prescribed areas and have to operate under the Pre Scribed areas act’ and you have to have the right decals. It is very hard to enforce in those areas because we don’t have the man power. Most taxi operators do operate on Port Zante and if we stop them here most likely all of them will, because majority of all of them comes down to anyway.”
He added that all of the operators were aware of the regulation and explained how they informed.
“Meetings were held with the taxi association presidents…letters were sent it was on the radio. Nobody could say they were not informed.”