Monday, December 12, 2011

Reprieve for old school buses

KUALA LUMPUR: About 1,900 of the 18,000 school buses in the country have exceeded their lifespan limit of 30 years, the Dewan Negara was told yesterday.

licences will be expiring by the end of this year
Operators of school buses whose licences will be expiring by the end of this year will be allowed a year’s extension to replace the vehicles.

But operators of these buses (with licences expiring this year) will be allowed a year' s extension to replace the old buses and not be rushed to buy new ones, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Ahmad Maslan said.

  "This is a short-term solution for operators  to adjust to the lifespan limit of 30 years that was implemented in January last year.  "The decision to adjust the lifespan limit of 30 years is based on the fact that bus operators do not make much profit.  "But for safety, it is a must for all operators to replace their vehicles when it reaches 30 years," he said in reply to Senator Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim during question time.  Ahmad said it was also the current policy of the Land and Public Transport Commission (SPAD) for used vehicles not more than 20 years to be licensed as school buses until it hits 30 years, giving operators an option if they could not afford to buy a new vehicle.  "SPAD has discussed with the bus operators' association and the operators and they have said that they will upgrade their buses to match international safety standards."  Under the 2012 Budget, an additional RM150 million was allocated to the Public Transport Development Fund in the SME Bank from which school bus operators can apply for soft loans at a four per cent interest rate to purchase or refurbish buses.  Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Shirlin Abdul Rashid said the government was looking at providing social health insurance for the people.  Rosnah said that under the scheme, social health insurance will be made accessible to all and would even protect those with chronic diseases.  "Retirees under the scheme would be able to seek treatment at private and government hospitals.  "The contributions to the scheme will be shared between the government, employers and employees," Rosnah said in reply to  Senator Datuk Najeeb Abdullah.  Najeeb had wanted to know the government's plans in ensuring that private sector retirees were covered by health insurance because of  the increase in medical costs.  Rosnah said the details of  the blueprint for the 1Care 1Malaysia healthcare plans are being discussed with the various stakeholders. This is because the government needs to ensure that the implementation of the plan will be executed without any glitches.  "We do not want to burden the rakyat and that is why we are currently looking at the options we have thoroughly."    She said the government was aware of escalating medical costs, especially for retirees who are suffering from chronic diseases.  "It is a worrying trend and some retirees do not have the financial protection which results in them spending their savings for medical expenses.  "This  is why we are looking at creating this scheme. However those who find it difficult to cope can seek treatment at government hospitals which provides treatment for free or at a minimal cost."  She said the government, through the ministry, conducts various health programmes  to educate the rakyat on non-communicable diseases and one of the strategies  included encouraging people to practise a healthy lifestyle.

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