For fourteen years now, the streets of Kathmandu haven’t seen new taxis. It’s not that no one wanted to own a taxi anymore. On the contrary, thousands of people have shown interest for buying one (or many) over the years to make it their means of living. But our loving government does not heed to their desire to work; maybe the ban on new taxi registration that was enacted in 2000 is meant to last forever. In the meantime the population has grown by a million, settlements have stretched to the outskirts of the valley and many people are in want of a job.
Everyone would be better off if this obsolete regulation restricting new taxis were to be removed. Addition of just a thousand taxis would allow more than two thousand individuals to make a decent living (the same taxi can be rotated in multiple shifts). Eight thousand taxis were registered in 2000 A.D.—out of which more than three thousand are out of order. The old number might have been enough to cater to all the people who wanted to use them then, however, the population has almost doubled and the demand for taxis has gone up accordingly. If the number of taxis doubled too, sixteen thousand new jobs would be created and consumers would receive better services.
Competition in any sector ensures the most efficient use of resources, be it human, capital or physical. For instance, when NCELL started challenging NTC by providing services like 3G internet, NTC had to improve its game too. This competition created jobs in both corporations, taxpayers’ money in case of NTC was used in a much more efficient way and we, the consumers, received far better services than we were used to. However, in order to compete, the playing fields should be open to all participants, which is not the case for most sectors in Nepal, especially transport. In 2010 Motax Pvt. Ltd. wanted to introduce 200 motorcycle taxis in the valley which would have been comparatively cheaper and faster than their four wheeler counterparts. The government, however, rejected this proposal citing safety concerns and considering its decision not to register new taxis for the next ten years.
The double standard of the government’s policies seems apparent when we consider how it has targeted the public transport system. 14 years ago it stated that the number of taxis was quite enough for the people and the streets of the capital and new taxis were banned. However, there has not been any restriction on the purchase private vehicles and their numbers have been increasing continuously.
It’s ironic that many people are complaining about there being nothing to do in Nepal and hundreds of thousands of youth have left the country to work as laborers in the Middle East whereas the government restricts people who want to earn an honest living for themselves. Anyone with a vehicle and a driver’s license should have been able to make a living as a taxi driver but that’s not possible anymore. The reasons that were given fourteen years ago for the restrictions are not relevant at present. Furthermore, the supply at present does not meet the demand; this shortage has created an artificial rise in cost of taxi rides which consumers have to bear. This regulation diminishes public welfare in the end; be it the unnecessary rise in transport cost or the disappearing pool of jobs.