Taxis Aim to Cash In

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Despite the price of fuel having dropped at midnight, taxi fares will remain unchanged though ordinary motorists in Namibia can now smile again. The fuel price went down in line with the drop in the international oil price. Government has reduced the fuel price by 26 cents a litre for both petrol and diesel with immediate effect. Vice-President of the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta), Innocent Simasiku, says despite these new changes in the fuel industry, taxi fares will remain the same. He added that during the previous fuel price hikes, Nabta did not increase its short or long distance trip fares on two occasions. The last fare increase of 50 cents was in June 2006. The fare adjustment that was necessitated by escalating fuel prices then represented a 10 per cent increase. Previous changes entailed that a passenger travelling on a long distance trip such as from Katima Mulilo to Windhoek, would no longer pay N$210 but N$230. Fares for Oshakati to Windhoek increased from N$105 to N$115. Taxi users started paying N$6.50 from N$6.00. Taxi driver John Mutton, who operates the Khomasdal route, commended Nabta for the decision taken, adding that this might be the time for the industry operators to make a profit. “In the past months, it has really been hard, we worked for fuel and no profit at all,” he said. He added that the situation was worse especially for taxi drivers employed by others as their earnings were affected due to lack of profit in the industry. Last week, the Ministry of Mines and Energy announced a decrease of 26 cents a litre in the fuel price. This is the first fuel decrease after a series of increases this year. The increases, according to Minister Erkki Nghimtina, were dictated by the international crude oil price that had reached a record high, ranging from US$75 to US$78 per barrel due to the violence in the Middle East. The fuel decrease announcement was a result of the Namibian dollar appreciation against the US dollar, the decrease in the international crude oil price and the over-recovery experienced in the local market. In Walvis Bay, where fuel prices are always better compared to other towns across the country, 93 LRP (Lead Replacement Petrol) now costs N$6.16 from N$6.44, while 95 ULP (Unleaded Petrol) costs N$6.18 per litre from N$6.42. Diesel that was selling at N $6.50 will go for N$6.17. “Pump prices at various inland destinations countrywide will also be changed accordingly,” said the minister. Nghimtina cautioned that the favourable average exchange rate and the softening of international crude prices could be short-lived as the US dollar started strengthening against the local currency in September through to the current month. He revealed that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) are envisaging curtailing their crude output to reduce stock build-up in a bid to revive the falling crude oil prices and a weakened demand brought about by persistently high crude prices in the previous quarter of 2006.