Wednesday June 27, 2012
Issuance of more individual taxi permits long overdue
THE STAR SAYS
ANYONE who takes a taxi regularly will observe two things – our cabbies love to talk politics and they constantly complain about having to deduct their day’s takings by RM50 to the company that actually owns their permits.
Thus when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on Sunday that a new model aimed at enabling more drivers to get individual permits is being put in place, the 25,000 taxi drivers and family members present had every reason to cheer loudly.
This policy turnaround is overdue and will go a long way to removing a source of frustration and resentment among taxi drivers.
Najib did not mince his words when he described the current lease system as “akin to modern-day slavery”.
He is spot-on in his assessment and should be given credit for being prepared to change the system for the benefit of taxi drivers.
The current system has a mix of individual and company permits. But the majority of cab drivers do not own taxi licences. They have to rent them from permit holders, including even individual permit-holders, and that has always been a source of resentment against the authorities.
Taxi drivers often ask why they have to do all the hard work while people who sit in air-conditioned offices rake in easy money.
Applying for an individual permit is not easy, and taxi drivers have plenty of stories to share about their repeated failed attempts.
Why are people who earn a living driving a taxi not given a permit, while others who do not depend on such permits for a living are given not one, but dozens of these permits?
Regular commuters cannot help but have a lot of sympathy for our taxi drivers, even if there are legitimate complaints against some of them on issues like overcharging and refusing to ferry passengers to certain destinations.
The proposed policy change is expected to take two years, and in the absence of specific details, we must caution that the new policy be fully transparent so that the right candidates are the ones who get the permits.
There is the lingering perception that the current companies are beneficiaries of some form of patronage. For the new policy to work, we must ensure that individuals do not get the permits because of who they know, but because they are qualified.
And these individuals must also do their part to ensure that they are worthy of the new responsibility entrusted upon them.
They should be proud to be taxi drivers and must take all measures to be properly attired, have excellent ethical and conversational skills, and be technologically-equipped with GPS devices.
In short, they are to be the perfect ambassadors on the frontline when they pick up passengers, whether local or foreign.
Pride and professionalism, that is what we want to see as the prime forces driving our Malaysian taxi drivers.