Latakia drivers defraud GPS due to insufficient subsidized fuel

Passengers waiting for buses to take them at the Eastern Latakia Garage - November 29, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Linda Ali)

Passengers waiting for buses to take them at the Eastern Latakia Garage - November 29, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Linda Ali)


Latakia – Linda Ali

The 42-year-old minibus driver Abu Ahmed finds no solution except to rely on his brother to put the device of state-imposed Global Positioning System (GPS) in a bag and then take the same minibus line twice a day between the coastal Latakia city and its countryside.

Abu Ahmed hopes that he can fill his allotment of state-subsidized diesel, which he can only obtain if those concerned ensure that he makes the required number of trips daily.

Abu Ahmed, who requested that no information be mentioned about his name or the line he works on for fear of prosecution, said that the fee that was set for his line, amounting to two thousand Syrian pounds, cannot at all be commensurate with the volume of work and consumption, whether for fuel or car repair.

He stated that he would not be able to get enough money to feed his family unless he worked under other contracts, whether with kindergartens or shops for packing and storing citrus fruits that transport their workers.

Abu Ahmed receives 34 liters of diesel per day, which is enough for four trips back and forth from the city to the end of the line in the village where he works. The total day’s earnings, if the work adheres to the maximum limit, reach 150,000 pounds.

At least 68,000 pounds go directly from the crop for the price of diesel, and he has 82,000 pounds remaining, Abu Ahmed said, adding, “It is impossible for this amount to suffice my family for its day’s food, and yet the car expenses do not end here.”

According to Abu Ahmed, the minibus needs to change the brake calipers every two months at an amount of 200,000 pounds, an oil change every 15 days at a value of 300,000 pounds, and changing wheels every year at an amount of five million pounds, in addition to 600,000 pounds for the annual car tax, and 46,000 pounds as a GPS tax every six months.

The driver confirmed that what he earns from the car if he commits to working will not even cover its expenses alone, and therefore he is forced to work outside the line in order to be able to bear these expenses and feed his family.

He pointed out that all officials realize this, but they always resort to easy solutions by pressuring citizens and stifling them instead of finding a solution that is comfortable for everyone, such as reducing the price of diesel or canceling allocations.

​​The US dollar is trading at 14,400 SYP according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.

The lead for “Qardaha Drivers”

The situation is similar for Atef (a pseudonym), who is trying in vain to finish preparing his house to get married, but he fails due to the large car expenses and his inability to keep up with the continuing rise in prices, even though he hired a motorcycle owner to install his “GPS” on his bike, and then he makes two trips a day on the same work route to one of the villages of Latakia.

The 28-year-old man complains about the lack of allocations and the unfairness of the distribution. He said that the drivers of the Latakia-Qardaha line receive daily allocations amounting to 46 liters of diesel, even though the length of the line does not exceed 48 kilometers.

While the drivers of the Latakia-Mardash line only get 34 liters per day, even though the length of their route is more than 60 km, the same is true of the Jableh-Latakia line, with a distance of 25 km, they get 34 liters per day, while the drivers of the al-Haffa-Latakia line get 34 liters even though the distance is 35 kilometers, pointing out that rural roads consume more diesel than plain roads, as is the case on the Jableh-Latakia highway.

The amount of diesel that Atef saves by renting a motorcycle to place a tracking device on it, he used it during the summer for external orders and citrus workshops contracts, while today, Atef will have to use the bulk of it for heating because the amount of diesel allocated for heating will not be sufficient.

Passengers pay the bill

In light of the previous reality, citizens are the only ones who pay the bill, as crowding increases with the start of the academic season at the university, and people accumulate in the eastern Latakia bus station and also in the al-Faros bus station waiting for a means of transportation to pick them up, in addition to buses taking advantage of them and requesting large sums of money from them.

The installation of GPS devices began in Latakia a year ago, making it the second governorate in which tracking devices were installed after the capital, Damascus, where the drivers of the Latakia-Jableh line inaugurated the new system, which soon expanded to include the majority of transportation lines in the governorate.

Although the installation of GPS contributed to a slight improvement in transportation at first, it quickly proved limited in its effectiveness as drivers invented more tricks to circumvent it, and the Ministry of Interior announced several times the discovery of violations regarding it and the arrest of drivers on charges of fraud.

Many drivers believe that the authorities are trying to make them pay the price for their failure to provide sufficient fuel for everyone, especially since many of them are tied to transportation contracts for kindergartens and factories, whether governmental or private so that they can secure sufficient amounts to support their families and pay taxes and supplies for maintenance.

The matter is not limited to Latakia governorate, as many drivers resort to GPS fraud.

Early December, the local newspaper Al-Watan reported from a source in the Ministry of Oil that minibusses were seized on the Baramkeh-Jdeidet Artouz line, and they hid the tracking device in the mirror of one of the minibus.

The source said that the goal was to manipulate and trade in their government-subsidized allocations.



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