Thu, 29 May 2003

Illegal fees squeeze bus drivers

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Public bus drivers are forced to pay, on average, up to Rp 40,000 for legal and illegal fees each day, a factor that has caused their services and safety to worsen, a survey reveals.

The survey, which was conducted by the Public Interest Research and Advocacy Center (Pirac), a non-governmental organization dealing with public interests, shows that 65 percent of drivers of medium and large city buses in Jakarta must dole out between Rp 5,000 and Rp 20,000 per day for legal fees, while 62 percent of them paid a similar amount to "certain groups" in illegal fees as well.

"Too many legal and illegal fees which must be paid by the drivers have badly affected the city bus services, causing frequent complaints from the public," say Pirac's executive As'ad Nugroho at a seminar to announce the survey results on Wednesday.

The survey further demonstrated that the woeful quality of the transportation services could be seen, among others, from the behavior of drivers on the streets, the deteriorating buses, the condition of tires and other crucial parts that have not been replaced or maintained on the buses.

As an example, the ideal for city buses is less than seven- years-old, but from the survey it was seen that 85 percent of the city buses have been in service for more than seven years. Some have even been operating since the 1970s.

The survey also shows that many bus operators have to cannibalize parts because they cannot afford to buy new ones.

The survey was conducted at seven bus terminals -- Grogol and Kota in Central Jakarta; Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta; Ragunan and Manggarai in South Jakarta, Klender and Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta -- and involved 150 drivers from 11 companies: Metromini, Kopaja, PPD, Mayasari, Steady Safe, AJ. A Putra, Himpurna, Jasa Utama, Agung Baru, Dian Mitra and Kopami Jaya.

Nugroho said that the supposedly legal fees paid by the drivers were too high, as the existing regulation says the fee should be only Rp 150 for large buses and Rp 100 for medium size buses per trip to the bus terminals. Every bus enters the terminals, on average, 10 times a day.

"If a bus enters a terminal 10 times a day, a driver should pay only Rp 1,500 for big buses and Rp 1,000 for the others. But in practice they are made to pay 5 to 20 times that," he said.