by Sin Chew Daily
Budget 2017 has not left taxi drivers behind. Prime Minister Najib Razak announced last Friday that RM60 million will be set aside to help taxi drivers purchase new vehicles while those earning below RM3,000 a month will also be entitled to Socso protection.
Under the new measures, taxi drivers will get a RM5,000 incentive if they purchase new vehicles. They will also be issued with individual taxi permits from the government.
It is hoped that these measures will help taxi drivers improve on their service quality and enhance their competitiveness and hence, their incomes.
From a macroscopic perspective, improving the competitiveness of taxi drivers is akin to improving the country’s public transport services.
The local taxi industry has in recent years come under tremendous pressure from Uber and Grab. In the face of these modern ride-sharing services, taxi drivers will naturally respond in an antagonistic and often violent manner.
From taxi protests to violence against Uber drivers, we can see the anxiety of many a traditional taxi driver, such that they have to resort to drastic measures to resist the changes of time.
Merely days before the tabling of Budget 2017, some 50 taxi drivers gathered outside Parliament House to urge the government to reconsider the decision to legitimise Uber and Grab, showing that these people are still very much constrained by their antiquated mindset.
Such resistance will not solve their problems in the first place, as the government has already decided to legalise online based ride-sharing services. The decision has been made not merely to fit into the prevailing trends, but more importantly it will allow Malaysians to enjoy a more convenient and efficient mode of transport.
Sure enough the government must also take into consideration the misery of traditional taxi drivers, and must not leave them alone to confront the new challenges. As a result, the government has made provisions for them in next year’s budget to help them tackle the challenges.
Taxi drivers must grab this opportunity to make the best of the resources and improve on their own offerings. Squarely protesting and resisting will not solve their woes but will deal a further blow to the image of Malaysian taxis.
What lies before our eyes is a question of market competition, and the best way to deal with market pressure is to enhance our own competitiveness.
In other words, increasing our competitiveness is the only solution to our problem.
As a matter of fact, the reputation of Malaysian taxi services has been very poor all these years while the market keeps dwindling. If taxi drivers have not yet made up their minds to change and improve, it is only a matter of time before they will be wiped out of the market completely.
It is imperative that taxi drivers re-tune their attitude at this critical moment to turn the crisis into an opportunity, and the pressure into a motivating force, to lift their service quality and efficiency in creating a win-win situation for themselves and their passengers.
Sin Chew Daily is a local vernacular publication
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