FREE BUS SERVICE FOR TAHITI ELDERLY DEBUTS

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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 5) - There are an estimated 13,000 senior citizens eligible for free bus transportation on the Windward Islands of Tahiti and Moorea, but the program is off to a slow start since taking effect on January 1.

Persons 60 years of age or older can qualify by obtaining an access card from their nearest social welfare office. They need only to provide an identify paper and an ID photo.

The French Polynesia government approved the program on December 15, announcing that it would cover the estimated 1,000 French Pacific francs (US$11) to produce the access cards. That represents a potential investment of 13 million F CFP (US$142,544) for the government.

But it appears there has been no rush to obtain the access cards, which takes a week to prepare.

A social welfare office serving Punaauia and Paea on Tahiti’s west coast reported preparing dossiers for six persons on Monday. That brought the total to 16.

The social welfare office in Faa’a, the commune next to Papeéte, reported two persons had sought information about how to obtain a card. In Papeéte, some "five to six" persons asked about the cards Monday.

"People are perhaps not really well-informed, and then there also were the Christmas celebrations," said an employee at the Punaauia/Paea social welfare office. But the employee was optimistic, saying, "The number of requests will be increasing."

The access cards apply to Tahiti’s famous "Le Truck" as well as new, modern buses, some of which are air-conditioned. A driver of "Le Truck" waiting for passengers at a Papeéte bus station Monday morning said he still had not seen anyone with a senior citizen access card. An elderly woman who arrived at the station said she was not aware of the government measure.

Another driver said, "Elderly passengers are not asking any questions about this subject. I really have the impression that everyone has forgotten the government’s decision."

January 6, 2005

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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