SUVA, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The Fijian government is taking steps towards replacing cash with electronic payments after it introduced an e-ticketing public transport payment system in October last year which the population is now accepting to live with.
Many commuters have adapted well to the eticketing system while some miss handling cash daily because in their view it remains a cheaper exercise.
Atasa Marama, a single mother of one who lives with her baby son, parents and brother, said that eticketing card is expensive for her and her family.
She tops up daily and must have 4 Fijian dollars (about 1.93 U.S. dollars) in his card to be able to travel to and from work to Suva as she lives about 15 minutes drive away in a settlement in Tacirua, a place near Suva. Before she only needed was 1.15 Fijian dollars (55 U.S. cents) each way.
She said that she tops up only when she needs to travel and still hates the idea because for her it is not as cheap as using cash.
Harold Koi, a father of five with three kids attending different schools in Suva, likes the new eticketing card system because all he does is to top up each child's card with 10 Fijian dollars (about 4.84 U.S. dollars) a fortnight.
He said that it was hard when one loses the card because there are forms that needed to be filled and he had to take time off work to do that.
Another commuter Adi Losalini said that every fortnight she budgets 10 Fijian dollars (about 4.48 U.S. dollars) for her bus fare card.
"Sometimes the remaining money can be like 10 Fijian cents (about 0.48 U.S. cents) but I don't seem to know where it goes," said Levi Tabakau, a farmer and father of three, who likes the new system.
He said that it helps him budget his money well. "Before I travel, I would think if I really need to go somewhere so it's good that way. When I used cash I didn't seem to really plan my travelling."
In last October the eTransport system was introduced in Fiji which has a population of more than 880,000.
The system was introduced to counter pilferage by bus companies and also help Fijians adapt to a cashless society as the world is changing that way.
The overhaul of the fare collection system was recommended by the Swiss consultants after the bus strike crisis of 2008 in Fiji.
According to this report, bus drivers pilfered 7 million Fijian dollars (about 3.38 million U.S. dollars) annually from 66 registered operators who had a total of 1000 buses running.
The report stated drivers were in total control of the cash and the receipt butts and the bus company's revenue was whatever the driver took to the owner. So the recommendation was for eTicket machines to be installed in buses where fare is prepaid and the company will know exactly how much they should collect. It was predicted that the new system would mean more revenue for bus companies.
This new eTicketing system that came into effect on October 1, 2017 dawned signs of a new age of a cashless public bus industry in the island nation.
Vodafone Fiji's Head of Commerce and Corporate Affairs Shailendra Prasad said that Vodafone was certain the fare programmed in the system for each stage was the regulated fare approved by Fiji's Land Transport Authority (LTA).
"These have been thoroughly tested. Every time a fare is processed, a ticket is issued instantly which details of the date, the time of travel, the bus registration number on which the passenger travels, the fare the passenger has been charged and the remaining balance on the card," he said.
"For any wrong fares charged to the passenger, there is a redress mechanism in place through LTA as the regulated enforcement body. It is advised that passengers keep their tickets to substantiate their claims for wrong fare being charged."
Fiji Bus Operators Association (FBOA) said that there are some 600,000 cards out there for Fiji's bus commuters.
Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who is the president of COP 23 (the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), is determined to reduce carbon emissions and in the island nation by using less paper.
Since last December, all payments made by the Fijian government departments have been switched to be done electronically without issuing cheques, adding to Fiji's change of becoming a cashless society.
Head of the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) Bank in Fiji Saud Minam said that the Fijian people were adapting well to the switch of using electronic platforms, and businesses were also conforming to limiting the use of paper.