Too many taxis and not enough work: Cab driver Rofino Arrindell calls politicians to account

POSTED: 11/4/13 2:47 AM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Rofino Arrindell has been a cab driver in St. Maarten since 1984 – almost thirty years. What was once a decent livelihood is has become a major headache due to the licenses politicians have freely distributed to their cronies and due to increased competition from group transport and tour buses. Arrindell is calling the two main culprits to account: former ministers of economic affairs Franklin Meyers and Romeo Pantophlet.

When Arrindell entered the taxi-business in 1984, there were 189 taxis on the Dutch side of the island. “That was enough and there was work for everybody,” he says. Those days are gone though. “There should be an equal playing field for taxis, public buses, rental cars, group transports and tour buses,” he says. However, you see now that group transport and tour buses come on the market with 14-seaters. That is taxi-business.”

Apart from this unregulated competition, Arrindell says, the market has also been flooded with licenses. Currently there are 548 taxis and that is only counting the Dutch side of the island. A major grievance is that these taxi licenses are not granted exclusively to cabbies that do the work themselves. “Eighty percent of all the licenses are rented out by former ministers and Members of Parliament,” Arrindell says. “That is not right. These licenses are personal. You can only have a help driver on your taxi when you are unable to drive yourself. On top, ninety percent of the people to whom those licenses are rented out, already have a job. That is also not allowed.”

The market is also flooded with car rental companies. “Maybe they get a license for 5 cars, but then they go to the French side and add another twenty cars on French plates. Everybody knows this is happening and nobody does anything about it. I see no work. Everywhere there are group transports, tour buses and car rentals taking our jobs away.”

Arrindell – a former president, secretary and treasurer of the St. Maarten Taxi Association – says that a study is needed into the taxi-market. “We do not need more than 200 taxis on the Dutch side. That will allow cab drivers to make a decent living. Right now, many don’t know how they are going to pay their bills. Frankie Meyers and Romeo Pantophlet have destroyed our lives by giving out all these political favors. They must be held responsible.”

The disgruntled cab driver says that he has finally had enough and that he is not afraid to speak out. “We need protection against these willfully malicious acts from politicians,” he says.

Arrindell’s workdays are akin to modern slavery. “I start at six o’clock in the morning and I stop at eight o’clock at night,” he says. “I work seven days a week; there is no way I can afford to take a day off. Before, I used to wait maybe an hour or an hour and a half for a job. Now I sometimes have to wait for 4 hours and if I’m unlucky, it is a six-dollar ride. And half my day is gone.”

Arrindell says that nobody in the government or in the parliament is ready to listen to his concerns. “I talked to Janchi Leonard, I talked to William Marlin. They promised to do something but nothing came of it. I am tired of this, and frustrated. This is really getting out of hand.”

With all this, Arrindell has not even started about those other competitors: the gypsy cab drivers who tour the island without a license. “The police see them, with an M-plate and a taxi sign on their roof and they do nothing. They say that we created the gypsies because we refuse some passengers. But those are the rules; we are entitled to refuse passengers that are drunk, passengers that are bleeding, or passengers that are wet. If you are bleeding you need an ambulance, and if you are wet you ought to dry yourself before getting into a cab.”

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Comments (1)

 

  1. Boo-boo says:

    So gypsies pick up the bleeders, drunks and the soaked? All of which he admits that he refuses to pick up. Obviously he’s not hungry enough. I’m sure that when you applied and received a license, somebody complained that you were taking food out of his mouth. Yet you were happy to get your license and support your family. Taxiing is a business and if you can’t make it, close and find another way of making your living. Everybody deserves a chance and Government should not refuse a local a chance to drive a taxi. If they make fine it, if not, they can’t say the didn’t get a chance. Go after the ministers who have all the bus and taxi licenses, with people driving for them at exorbitant rental rates. People can say that after thirty years you should have turned in your license so a young person could get a break. How would you like that, even though you are still able-bodied, be forced to give up your license?