Insiders: Minibus operators raise fares to accommodate fuel hike

Less than a week after the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) adjusted fuel pump prices upwards, minibus operators in the country have started raising passenger fares.

Mera announced the increase of fuel prices on Friday, claiming it noted sustained high Fuel On Board (FOB) prices of oil on the international market to ensure that importers are able to fully cover importation costs and to enable sustained flow of petroleum products (petrol, diesel and paraffin) into the country.

Some minibus operators plying their businesses in Blantyre have since raised fares by K50 while others have increased by K100.

Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) acting national chairperson Felix Mbonekera Msiska confirmed the development in an interview on Wednesday, saying following the fuel price hike, the association has been discussing with minibus operators to revise passenger fares.

However, he could not be drawn to comment on the agreed percentage, saying operators are at liberty to set fares for their minibuses.

Said Msiska: “We have a forum where we discuss these issues and we all agreed on the need to revise fares upwards. However, this is a liberalised business and as Moam, we cannot dictate on fares. We will only ensure they do not charge exorbitantly.”

In 2012, the Competition and Fair Trade Commission (CFTC) ordered Moam to cease and desist from engaging in anti-competitive business practices by regulating fares.

Reacting to the minibus fare hike, Passenger Welfare Association (Pawa) president Don Napuwa criticised minibus operators, saying the fares adjustment is not justifiable.

“They are just being greedy. Last time fuel price was raised by 5 percent and they increased fares by 13 percent. Bus fares have to be realistic, otherwise they will become unaffordable,” he said.

Napuwa urged government to engage transport operators to come up with free trade formulae.

“We are a liberalised economy yes, but government controls fuel and maize prices. Passengers too need protection,” he added.

Mera increased the pump price of petrol from K888 to K932.50, diesel from K890.90 to K935.60 and paraffin from K719.30 to K755.30 a move which is likely to push up the cost of other commodities.

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