Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Blue Bird demands fare hike to cover its debt: Councillor

JAKARTA (JP): A city councillor hinted on Tuesday that the capital's leading taxi firm, the Blue Bird group, had demanded the current fare hike simply to cover its debt to the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) of over 3,000 Timor sedans.

Deputy chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction, Maringan Pangaribuan, said the company was under a great deal of pressure to pay the debt as it had obtained all of its 3,000 Timor sedans from IBRA.

"That is why the Association of Land Transportation Owners (Organda), whose executives are mostly from the Blue Bird group, demanded the fare hike because they have to pay for the 3,000 cars," Maringan said as quoted by Antara.

He said that actually the sedans should have been distributed to all taxi companies in the capital. "But it was the Blue Bird group, which purchased all of the sedans to replace its aging cars."

Maringan said each car is worth Rp 84 million (US$9,032), along with the registration plates, but the group managed to buy them for a price of Rp 58 million each, complete with the required license numbers.

"It's obvious that the Blue Bird group eagerly wants the current 45.54 percent hike, while other taxi companies manage to survive without the fare hike," he said.

The new taxi fare took effect on Saturday after two months of postponement due to strong opposition from the public and taxi drivers. It was reported that eight of the 32 taxi operators in the capital did not apply the new rate.

Blue Bird group Operational Director Ateng Hardjono, however, denied the allegations saying that the company had never procured 3,000 Timor sedans and never had any deals with IBRA.

"We only procured several hundred Timor sedans and not from IBRA but from one of Timor's dealers. We bought the cars for Rp 86 million each, complete with the required registration numbers," Ateng told The Jakarta Post by phone on Tuesday.

He defended the Blue Bird group's decision to buy the Timor sedans by claiming that they were the cheapest ones that were immediately available, compared to some other types of sedan that they would have to wait for another six months for.

"This has nothing to do with the fare hike at all. The new fare is needed by most taxi companies to cover the increased spending on our cars' maintenance," he added.(dja)