Finally. A more balanced article in ST about Uber

I’ve written about how ST/SPH has strangely been one-sided in their articles about apps like Uber and GrabCar. Their articles seem to make it out to sound like allowing Uber and GrabCar to operate in Singapore is such a terrible problem that needs to be rectified. Those articles seem to be solely representing the perspectives of the taxi companies and advocating changes that would benefit them.

But what of the impact to consumers? What of the impact to taxi drivers? What of impact to society at large? Nary a word.

In the face of such deafening silence from ST/SPH, Daniel Yap wrote an excellent piece about the benefits of Uber and GrabCar for consumers, (taxi) drivers on  The Middle Ground. Daniel’s article isn’t the only article that speaks of the benefits of Uber and GrabCar. A taxi driver, James, has also come out to say why he thinks companies like Uber and GrabCar are boons to taxi drivers. In addition to all the benefits that Daniel and James have mentioned, I would just like to add that apps like Uber and GrabCar also reduce the negative externalities that traditional taxi companies bring. Uber and GrabCar potentially can reduce the number of taxis driving around aimlessly looking for fares to pick up. This reduces the total number of vehicles on the road, thus bringing down congestion and pollution. The impact may not be huge, but every little bit helps.

And it seems that ST has realised that their blatant bias against Uber and GrabCar is embarrassing. Finally, it has an article that grudgingly admits that there are some benefits to Uber. But even in that article, Ignatius Low still has to sound a few cautionary notes about Uber and highlight the necessity of regulating companies like Uber and GrabCar.

I do not mean to deny that there are reasons for regulating companies like Uber and GrabCar. There are.

We do need regulations to minimise any safety risks for the passengers. For instance, an individual that has proven time and again to be an incorrigible violent criminal should definitely not be allowed to even start as a driver with Uber. Similarly, regulations that ensure that the Uber vehicle has been maintained and serviced to some minimum level of roadworthiness is also definitely necessary.

There are probably other reasons why the government really must regulate companies like Uber and GrabCar. But I hope that our government frames the process of coming up with such regulations properly.

The issue should NOT  be about helping the taxi companies survive. Whether the profits of taxi companies drop or whether taxi companies have to fold because of Uber or GrabCar should be a non-issue for the Government.

Also, the regulations should NOT  be affected by the supposed influence that the taxi lobby has in politics (as implied by Ignatius Low). Because taxi drivers can always have the option of switching over to Uber and GrabCar if they deem the benefits of doing so outweigh whatever costs and concerns that they may have. So the political “cost” of pissing taxi drivers off should not even be a consideration in the formulation of the regulations.

Instead, I hope that the relevant authorities, in crafting the regulations, will be driven by just two main considerations: (a) How to provide for the best interests of consumers and (taxi) drivers, and (b) how to reduce negative externalities of taxi-like services.

[Featured Image: Reuters Photo]

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