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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Feb 20: The loose alliance of taxi drivers in Kuching could be a factor that puts the conventional taxi service industry in a vulnerable position as it develops and faces new competition, particularly from e-hailing services.
Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth, and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah reckoned it is not a good idea to have so many taxi associations representing the industry here.
“There are many different taxi associations in Kuching regulating them (the conventional taxi industry), which I don’t think is a good idea. But it is still up to them to stay split or be one strong voice (to make e-hailing firms play by the same rules that they play),” he told reporters after officiating at the launching and flagging-off of the Visit Sarawak Campaign Car Stickers event at the taxi stand of Plaza Merdeka here today.
He pointed out that cities such as Kuching must accept that the innovative transportation service is here to stay, and rather than resisting the industry, conventional taxi drivers should be more united to look for ways to modernise their fleet.
Earlier, Abdul Karim held a dialogue session with the taxi drivers to hear plights and challenges facing them here as well as how to cooperate to boost their role in assisting the state tourism industry.
“One of the big problems faced by taxi drivers is the surge of e-hailing services like Grab. But we cannot avoid this as it is happening all around the world.
“That’s why my hope is for taxi associations in Sarawak to be more united. If you are alone, then it is better for you to join Grab. You register yourself as a Grab driver as well as a regular taxi driver,” he suggested.
Abdul Karim, however, noted that traditional taxi drivers were disadvantaged as they had to make significant investments in complying with rules, regulations and licensing requirements of the transport industry, while the e-hailing services were allowed to operate freely.
“Of course, taxi owners have to pay more because they have to pay for things like insurance, while e-hailing services do not. At the moment, this is one of the things that is affecting the taxi service industry.
“But then, I believe there will come a time when the federal government will have to put in place some kind of regulations for the e-hailing service, where perhaps the drivers will be required to have special insurance scheme for drivers and passengers or registration of cars meant for commercial use with different road tax, but I am not too sure as it is up to the government to craft the local transport policies.”
On whether the conventional taxi operation should modernise and keep up in a technology-driven era considering the fact that e-hailing services are here to stay, Abdul Karim said it was up to the taxi drivers.
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer (CEO) Sharzede Salleh Askor, STB chairman Datuk Abdul Wahap Aziz and STB Board of Directors member Ibrahim Nordin were among those present at the event. — DayakDaily