Taxi operators are frustrated with the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.).
They are unhappy claiming that contrary to assurance the policy to disregard vehicles older than 2003 for commercial transport has been delayed, many of them have already been affected.
Fa’asavalu Soane is one of them. He said his vehicle couldn’t be registered, leaving him and his family in limbo.
“This is how I provide for my family,” he said. “It is through my taxi and now we have nothing to depend upon.”
On 17 January 2018, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi wrote to Minister of Works Papali’i Niko Lee Hang about the matter. Tuilaepa asked Papali’i to consider the plea of the taxi drivers.
He added that the Taxi Drivers have a valid concern regarding the said policy by the L.T.A.
The Prime Minister pointed out that the Board’s decision was harsh “given the taxi drivers are also business people who need money.
“The end result of your (board) decision is literally killing the spirit of the business person. The board should eliminate the said policy limiting the year for the taxis but look at the taxis that are up to par with a perfect running engine and that is what the L.T.A. employees should look at.”
Now many of those taxis have been taken off the road.
Mr. Soane told the Samoa Observer that all his life he has been a taxi driver and this is the only form of employment he knows.
“I am the breadwinner of my family, now I don’t know where I can get some money to take care of my family,” he said. “This is very frustrating!”
Mr. Soane said he was surprised when he went to register his taxi only to be told that his vehicle can no longer operate as a taxi under the new policy.
“I don’t understand why L.T.A. has superseded what the Prime Minister said during Parliament. This means the government has rescinded the said decision.
“I came to register my taxi only to be told by the L.T.A. employees that my car is no longer allowed to be utilized for a taxi due to the year.
“They said I needed to pay for a registration for a private vehicle, and so I left.
“I was shocked,” said Mr Soane.
The L.T.A. Chief Executive Officer, Ta'atialeoitiiti Agnes Tutuvanu-Schwalger, has been contacted for a comment.
In January during Parliament, Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, raised concerns about the impact of the new policy.
“A total of two hundred taxis will be affected,” Olo said. “A total of two hundred people will be out of jobs and a total of two hundred families will no longer receive financial assistance from taxis.”
In response, Minister for Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papaliitele Niko Lee-Hang and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi assured the matter has been resolved.
Tuilaepa also joined the conversation.
“I have already informed the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure to look into it, given the importance of his role,” said Tuilaepa.
When the policy was initially announced, Manager for Road Use Management, Tauiliili Sala Bartley, said these vehicles could be registered as private vehicles.
“The decision has come about because of the complaints raised by the general public who are using such services daily,” Tauiliili said.
“Some taxis do not have air condition or a customer hops inside the car and it is full of rubbish. The window and car handles are damaged.
“Those are some of the things that concern the Land Transport Authority because we prioritise the safety of our people.”
Tauiliili estimated that around a 100 taxis would be put out of service once the requirement comes into force.