Nationalise the buses!

I know the word ‘nationalize’ will raise the hackles of many in the post-SAP [Structural Adjustment Program] world. The entire world is going down the ‘liberal capitalism’ road with the International Monetary Fund acting like the Pied Piper dragging all of us down a road whose destination we can’t really know. We just hope for the best.

I know the word ‘nationalize’ will raise the hackles of many in the post-SAP [Structural Adjustment Program] world. The entire world is going down the ‘liberal capitalism’ road with the International Monetary Fund acting like the Pied Piper dragging all of us down a road whose destination we can’t really know. We just hope for the best.

It’s obvious that wildcat capitalism is failing…or rather its working and it will be the death of us all. Just look at the climate change brouhaha. Because of this unfettered capitalism, where it’s everyone for him/herself and the government collects the taxes, I believe we are in such trouble.

Only a liar will say that SAP’s were a total disaster. Let’s all agree with this fact; structural adjustment programs gave a kick on the backside to the private sector because, previous to the imposition of these programs, most of the economic sector was dominated by the state.

However, the IMF, in its infinite Bretton Woods wisdom, decided that for the poor and debt ridden nations to access more loans and loan extensions, they’d have to ‘adjust their structures’. In simple words, the state was to get out of the business of ‘doing business’.

The only problem was that the countries that the governments oversaw weren’t ready for these drastic changes. Many economies regressed and goods became scarcer as the private sector failed to pick up the slack and continue where the state left off.

Luckily for all of us, despite all these shocks a few years back, Africa is enjoying some impressive economic numbers. However, although the previous regime of state control was monopolistic in nature, you’d have to admit that it very often worked.

Where the state left a vacuum a new class of African capitalists has filled it. And I’m all it. In fact, I’m slightly envious of all the money they are making. On the other hand, all this unfettered business isn’t necessarily good.

Thank goodness that the state still is able to stand up to the business interests and say “No” when things go against the public good. I mean, that’s the government’s job- to make sure that there is proper regulation. But regulation isn’t all I want to see.

Sometimes, in my humble opinion, the government should stick a foot in when it’s obvious that something’s going wrong. That’s when the buses come in. I’ve lived in Kigali since 1994 and the omnipresent mini-buses have been my constant companion since.

This, previously comfortable arrangement is officially past its sell-by-date. When I first got to Kigali the streets weren’t busy at all; the only traffic being mainly the NGO and military vehicles. Oh, and of course, the mini-buses. Things have changed wonderfully since those days in all spheres of life for any native ‘Kigali-er’.

Kigali is bursting with life and that’s fine. However, despite its increased size, increased population and vehicle traffic, the road networks within the city limits haven’t moved along with the rest of us. I understand that building a new road network isn’t an easy task. Here is the challenge. How can the congested roads be made less clogged? Here is a simple solution. Increase public transport.

“But don’t we already have a public transport system”, you ask me? Certainly we do. But it can be made much better. The mini-bus operators association ATRACO has done its best but it will not be the one to fundamentally change the transport problem.

Since ATRACO is simply an association of individual bus owners it can’t- simply because its nature- be a part of the solution I propose. Mini-buses because of their relatively small size can only transport a small number of passengers at one time.

So, if, for example, there are thirty passengers travelling to Remera or Nyamirambo, you’ll need two taxis to get them to their destinations. A single proper bus [not mini] can attend to all passengers at once. A single proper bus takes up less room on the road than a couple of mini-buses; simply put, one bus is better than two mini-buses.

ATRACO probably knows this but how can a mere association force its members to replace their mini-buses and invest in the larger versions?

It can’t; and even if it could, how could it make sure that the new buses were in good condition and uniform?

In most large cities in the world, from Toronto to London, public transport in cities is the domain of the city authorities. Only the state and local authorities can ensure uniformity and good condition of public transport.

Kigali is only going to became more congested; unless city authorities do something drastic, traffic will slow down to a crawl. And no one wants that. ATRACO has done its best…its sadly not good enough though.

Contact: sunny-ntayombya@hotmail.com    

 

Have Your SayLeave a comment