Caracas, August 25, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) — Thanks to a deal between the Venezuelan government and the mayor of London, the English capital began offering half-price bus fares to poor residents of the city this week. The plan to supply the city with discounted oil will allow 250,000 of the poorest residents of London to more easily use public transport.
The Venezuelan government made the agreement with London Mayor Ken Livingstone last February after Venezuelan President Chavez suggested the idea during a visit to London in 2006. The deal will provide London buses with a 20% discount on fuel from Venezuela. At the same time, London will open an office in Caracas to provide Venezuela with advice and technical expertise on tourism, public transport, urban-planning, and the protection of the environment, fields in which London is a world leader.
The discount will reduce the city's annual fuel bill of about £65 million ($138.4 million) by up to £14 million ($29.8 million), said a spokesman for the mayor. Those to benefit from the lower bus-fares will be single parents, long-term sick, disabled and others on income support.
"We want to target the very poorest Londoners," said Livingston to reporters. "From today, all Londoners on Income Support are eligible for half price travel on London buses. This will make it cheaper and easier for people to go about their lives and get the most out of London."
The mayor said that the reduced fares would offer savings of as much as £280 ($596) a year per person. And Livingston assured that Venezuela will benefit from the deal as well.
"The agreement which makes this possible will also benefit the people of Venezuela, by providing expertise in areas of city management in which London is a world leader, such as public transport, planning, tourism and protection for the environment. London and Venezuela will be exchanging those things in which they are rich to the mutual benefit of both."
The Mayor was commended by some sectors, but criticized by others, for the deal with Venezuela. Assistant Executive Director of the London Muslim Center Shaynul Khan praised the deal as a way to reduce the cost of living for the most needy.
"London is one of the world's most expensive cities to live and work in, yet it is home to some of the poorest communities," said the director. "Initiatives that reduce the cost of living for the most needy are very welcome."
"Working within communities we are able to hear their concerns, such as high transport costs. We commend the Mayor and the Greater London Authority for introducing practical measures to help Londoners. This initiative will benefit many thousands of ordinary people on low incomes," he assured.
The agreement was criticized by Angie Bray, a Conservative Party member of the city's legislative assembly. She said Livingstone, as mayor of one of the world's wealthiest cities, shouldn't accept subsidies from residents of Caracas, one of the poorest.