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Najib woos cabbies with direct-licence pledge

 | June 24, 2012

The prime minister says this will rid of the current lease system that he describes as 'modern day slavery'.

BUKIT JALIL: Taxi drivers became the latest target of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s charm offensive today as he promised to end the current practice of awarding taxi licences to companies.

Calling it a “modern day slavery”, the premier said Putrajaya is now looking into awarding licences directly to the 70,000 strong cabbies in an apparent move to win their support as national polls loom.

He said the government is now in the midst of drafting the framework and is likely to introduce the new system in “one or two years’ time”.

“I don’t like it when I hear that companies get too many taxi licences. The era where we give taxi licences to individual companies will end,” Najib told some 10,000-strong audience at a government event here. Those attended were mainly taxi drivers.

“The government will do its best to protect the interests of the individual taxi drivers. The leasing of taxis is a form of modern-day slavery. I am against it,” he added.

Plans to revamp the licensing system came after alleged government inaction over longstanding complaints by cabbies over the “unfair” lease system had threaten to trigger a vote swing.

Najib said the plan will be included in the government’s new programme titled TR1MA (Teksi Rakyat 1Malaysia) with the collaborative effort between the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture as well as 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Goodies

The premier is seen delaying polls after intelligence gathered showed the numbers were unfavourable to his efforts to redeem Barisan Nasional’s dismal performance in the 2008 elections.

Analysts say Najib now needs more time to prepare for what will be the ruling coalition’s toughest polls yet, including spending more money on projects aimed at wooing key constituents especially the sceptical middle-class.

That is why the country’s sixth premier is likely to call for elections only after he has tabled next year’s budget on Sept 28.

At the moment, Najib has gone on a nationwide pre-elections campaign riding on announcements of government projects in events similar to today’s gathering taxi drivers in a bid to shore up support.

Such events are often characterised by announcement of cash aids after the trick that had helped bolstered his popularity as seen in a March survey.

Today the premier gave taxi drivers each RM525 in the form of tyre subsidies annually.

“I hope this will help our taxi drivers. Their welfare is our utmost concern,” said Najib.
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