There’s an article in TODAY reporting how cabbies are crying foul over the aggressive marketing methods of Uber. According to the report, “Uber’s ambassadors have been offering promotion codes for free Uber rides in the vicinity of taxi stands”. These tactics are apparently legal as they do not count as touting.
Unsurprisingly, this “outrage” has prompted National Taxi Association adviser Ang Hin Kee to once again say that the government will ensure a level playing field for taxi drivers. He said, “We will ensure that while Singapore embark on creating innovative solutions to create more options for public transport, the drivers’ livelihoods are competed on a level playing field.” What terrible English! What does “livelihoods are competed on a level playing field” supposed to mean?
From all the various reports that have been popping up in the news these few months, it seems that the government’s idea of levelling the playing field is to impose stricter regulations on Uber-like apps.
But there are no indications that the government’s process includes looking at the broader benefits of Uber-like apps on consumers and the society in general. It seems that the government is pandering to the whining of cab drivers who have too much inertia to change – “We put in so much money and effort to be cab drivers! And we are doing a passable job. So we should hold back any innovation that benefits the consumers at our expense!”.
Rather, I think the government should be have a mindset of “Hey, there are these new competitors! How do we help cab drivers improve their quality of service so that consumers will choose cabbies over the new competitors?” Wouldn’t that be the best way to truly safeguard the interests of those who really matter – the drivers and the consumers?
But no. That doesn’t seem to be the principal consideration of the government. Instead, one might get the impression that any new regulations are ostensibly to protect the interests of cab drivers. But taxi drivers could switch to UberX and GrabCar any time. So in reality, it seems that the government is most interested in protecting the interests of cab companies.
Why? Because the biggest taxi companies are government linked companies. They have a rent-seeking mentality, grown too comfortable from being sheltered by favourable government policies and, as a result, risk averse and lacking the drive to innovate. Is it a wonder then that they are now crying foul and asking big daddy government to come rushing in to rescue them?
It’s getting lame. To think that there’s so much talk about the need for innovation. The government should just come out and say, “Hey guys. Shut up with the whining already. Let’s come together to think of innovative ways to LEVEL UP our service standards so that we can beat these new competitors!”. And do so in no uncertain terms. If not, we can forget about being ready for the future. Because the future is already here. And it’s beating the crap out of us.
[Featured Image: Reuters photo]