Taxi drivers feel lockdown squeeze
Business is tough for Samoa’s taxi services with one driver blaming the ban on public buses for the lack of customers.
And the tough operating environment has been prolonged by the Government’s decision last Friday to extend the state of emergency (S.O.E.) by another four weeks.
Tua Lima of Vaitele-Fou, who drives for the Wetland Taxi Stand, told Samoa Observer that they continue to struggle as members of the public often opt for free rides over catching a cab during the lockdown.
“There has been a huge difference. It’s been really slow before the lockdown. I will usually earn $120 each day and would normally get $70 before noon,” he said.
Prior to the lockdown his daily income would be within the vicinity of $120 and he earned more than half of that before noon.
Due to the enforcement of the S.O.E. in the last three weeks, the absence of customers continues to be a major challenge.
“Right now it’s almost noon and I only have $5 so it’s been really tough for the past few weeks and it might be like that for the next four weeks,” Mr Lima said.
The increasing use of company vans and trucks to pick up staff during the lockdown is also a sore point for the taxi driver, who is of the view that it breaches S.O.E. orders as gatherings of five or more people (in a vehicle) are banned.
“I feel sorry for the workers but now the company trucks and vans are currently picking up the workers every day, and if you think about it, the lockdown prohibits gatherings of more than five people but you can fit more than 10 people in a truck and van,” he added.
“In some situations 15 people are in the vehicles but the law says that it should be less than four or three in a gathering.”
Due to the S.O.E. and the subsequent lockdown, he would be lucky to earn at $30 on any given day, which would be spent on petrol with no extra cash for the day’s work.
“These days the highest amount I would get is $20, it would be lucky if I get $25. There is not much profit because most of the money goes into the petrol because I would usually put $30 worth of petrol into my taxi. Now if I get $20 from the entire day then all of that goes into the petrol and then there is no money left,” he said.