Assembly to blame for the taxi lawIt is nothing new that the National Assembly often makes things worse by doing its job: lawmaking. But it messed up big time with a law it recently rubber stamped. The National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the Act on Support and Promotion of the Utilization of Mass Transit System that mainly designates taxis as public transportation, allowing the taxi industry the benefits and subsidies the state allocates to buses and subways.
Despite potential controversy, the legislature made little effort to alleviate a conflict. The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, and local governments all advised against the bill. The legislative branch, however, paid no heed or took time to listen to opposition from the bus industry. It did not hold even a public hearing to hear out different opinions and conflicts of interest among parties involved.
Lawmakers merely paid attention to the taxi industry that promised to vote for the candidate who supports its interests. As a result, we could have seen an unprecedented nationwide bus strike if the bus industry had not withdrawn its decision at the last minute.
The bill doesn’t really help the taxi industry either. The industry has long been in need of restructuring largely due to sluggish business and poor working conditions for drivers, to name a few. Experts cite glut and low cab fees for the industry’s troubles. They advise that the number of taxis be cut down by at least 50,000 from the current 250,000 and fees raised so that they can play their original role as a high-caliber means of transportation. A scale-down and a fee hike may not be easy, but necessary for the industry’s viability down the road.
Moreover, the country cannot afford the bill because it has no funding to support the taxi industry. Local governments spend huge amounts of money to sustain public transportation systems to keep fees low for their commuting services for ordinary masses. But taxis do not carry or serve the masses. There are no cases in the world that recognize taxis as a part of public transportation. Once included in the public transportation system, taxis would no doubt demand equal benefits and tax exemptions. The central and local governments cannot afford to do so.
Politicians regard cab drivers as effective publicists. They may have wanted to earn their favor ahead of the presidential election. Their job, however, is to ease social conflict and problems, not aggravate them. They should quickly undo the harm.