KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will soon allow Uber and Grab car owners to legally offer rides to passengers in a liberalisation of the country's transport policy.
Under the plan, car owners who use these ride-hailing apps need to carry what is called a "driver's card", said Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai yesterday.
They will be issued these cards after registering with the Land Public Transport Commission and getting their vehicles inspected at Puspakom government service centres for roadworthiness.
"Uber and Grab car drivers will need to have a driver's card registered under the Road Transport Act, which is to regulate all public transport drivers," he said.
To placate taxi drivers who are angry with the entry of these cars - which are currently not regulated to carry paying passengers in Malaysia - the government will soon liberalise taxi-usage rules, he said without elaborating.
The entry of cars using ride-hailing apps has led to street demonstrations by Malaysian taxi drivers. Some had physically attacked drivers of these vehicles, blaming them for stealing their customers.
Taxi-driver associations have repeatedly warned the government against legalising the entry of these competitors.
Big Blue Taxi Services founder Shamsubahrin Ismail said the 800 taxis under the group will abandon the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and support the new party being formed by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad if ride-hailing cars are legalised.
"This approval is a no-go for me. For the taxi industry, no go... We will fight all the way," said Datuk Shamsubahrin. "We will make sure if Uber is legalised... we will 100 per cent support the new party."
Meanwhile, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani said the government is looking at how to make companies that offer these apps register locally so they can be taxed. "The drivers are paying 25 per cent of every fare to these companies, which already rake in millions in profit," he said yesterday. "As these platforms are operating within the country, we may have to make it compulsory for them to register as companies so we can see their profits and how best to tax them."
Datuk Johari said the government cannot back away from allowing the use of these modern business platforms.
"Ours is an open economy and we cannot forbid a digital economy to enter our market, especially since these systems are accepted around the world," he said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK