Taxi company says rebate for Proton-Uber conversion politically motivated

Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail questioned why the Iriz model was picked for the programme, claiming Proton's mini car was unsuitable to serve passengers given its size. — Picture by Siow Saw Feng
Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail questioned why the Iriz model was picked for the programme, claiming Proton's mini car was unsuitable to serve passengers given its size. — Picture by Siow Saw Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 ― Putrajaya's plan to subsidise aspiring ride-sharing drivers with a RM4,000 rebate to buy a Proton Iriz is intended to save the ailing national carmaker, Big Blue Taxi Services said today.

Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail, owner of the taxi company, questioned why the Iriz model was picked for the programme, claiming Proton's mini car was unsuitable to serve passengers given its size.

“The Iriz is not designed to be a taxi. It's too small. How are they supposed to fit people in?” he told reporters here.

The taxi operator also asked how will the government ensure that the car will be used for ride-hailing when Uber and Grab car drivers are not registered with the government.

“It's not a viable policy,” he said.

During the tabling of Budget 2017 yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak encouraged those in the Bottom 40 (B40) income group to become ride-sharing drivers, such as Uber drivers, and announced the RM4,000 rebate for Proton Iriz purchases and that down payment would be made using the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) government cash aid.

Shamsubahrin claimed the tone of the announcement was a clear indicator of  the government's intention to wipe the taxi industry out in favour of ride-sharing companies.

Pointing to the individual permit to be given to 12,000 cab drivers, the Big Blue Taxi operator owner asked what will happen to the remaining taxi drivers.

“You said you want to transform the taxi industry...but we saw nothing from the budget that was helpful to the taxi industry.

“Instead you promoted the people to drive Uber,” he said.

The Najib administration said it would give out 12,000 individual permits to qualified drivers to free them from the “pajak” system, in which drivers pay operator rent to drive their taxis.

Najib also announced a plan to give each qualified driver a RM5,000 grant to help them buy new cars.

Shamsubahrin said while the initiative may be laudable, most of the policies appeared half-baked.

“There is nothing concrete...if they want to really help and allow us to compete at a level playing field they should regulate Uber's fares as well,” he said.

The San Francisco-based ride sharing platform offers the lowest fares in the industry, but because it is exempted from regulation and capitalise on private vehicles without investing in any assets.

The Land Public Transport Commission (Spad) said it will soon announce a holistic plan that will include the regulation of ride-sharing services, but it is uncertain if this includes regulating fares.

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