The state government, particularly Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, must take immediate and appropriate actions to resolve the doubts and disquiet over the operation of ride-sharing app Uber in Sarawak which began yesterday.
In making the call, Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How pointed out that Uber is a global phenomenon.
Though it was initiated only seven years ago, the business is estimated to be worth US$60 billion to US$70 billion and it is still tapping into new markets in all parts of the world, he added.
“On our shores, Uber has exposed the loopholes in our legislative and regulatory control for taxi and hired car services, and exploiting them. The federal and state ministers, together with officials of relevant departments, can talk about them being not licensed.
“But, as the company representative has put it as a matter of fact, that they as a transportation networking company, they do not own and operate any taxi or hired car. In plain words, Uber is telling the government and particularly LPKP (Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board) that they do not need any licences,” See, who is state PKR vice chairman, told The Borneo Post yesterday.
According to him, a business enterprise of such magnitude should have its sets of principles or ethics and responsibilities towards the society and the stakeholders.
“It cannot be an excuse to say that Uber being a transportation networking company, therefore it can commence its operation while it ‘engages the state authorities to work out the regulations’.
“That is effectively saying that it can ignore all the country’s laws and legal obligations which are legislated to protect the interests of the society and all the stakeholders.”
At present, See said, taxis and hired cars are required to undergo examination twice a year, the drivers are licensed and they are paying higher insurance premiums to cover their customers.
“Are all the private drivers and vehicles engaged on the technological platform subject to the same stringent regulatory controls?”
He said Uber should reveal its policies, internal regulatory principles or ethics and responsibilities towards the stakeholders.
“Besides the possible breach of duties and responsibilities to the commuters, are they also risking the drivers providing the rides to offences under the country’s laws?”
See said it was undeniable that Uber would present the biggest challenge to the conventional taxi and hired cars.
“ Masing, who is also Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation, should call for dialogues with the taxi drivers to assist them to be more competitive, including the use of the same technological platform to connect these taxi drivers with their customers, in overcoming the challenges.
“The deputy chief minister may also pattern ourselves after other countries and cities to care for the taxi service industry, one such good model being the measures introduced by London to protect the traditional ‘Black cabs’ operating in the city.”
He said the measures introduced by the London City mayor, Sadiq Khan, included restricted lanes for taxis, more specific areas set aside for taxi drivers to wait for customers, substantial grants for all taxi drivers to upgrade their taxi to ‘Go Green’ and cleaner vehicles, the requirement of drivers of Uber and other ‘private-hire’ cars to take ‘advanced driving test’ and to be licensed according to city authorities.
See said the taxi and ‘private-hire’ car services using the networking technology platform might and would co-exist in the very near future, but in the interests of the society as a whole and the interests of all stakeholders, the state government must advance and modernise its regulatory controls to keep pace.
The Borneo Post Online