Photo of Ng Chee Meng from singaporeairforce

In the latest protectionist measure, the Singapore government ruled that ride-sharing application users like Uber and Grab will not be regulated and their drivers will have to get a vocational license.

The move is deliberated to assist Temasek Holdings-linked taxi operator ComfortDelgro from falling profits as drivers leave in droves to cost-efficient taxi services like Uber and Grab. The new regulations will also likely increase costs for Uber and Grab, which will pass on the price increases to passengers.

Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng made the announcement yesterday (Feb 7), saying that Uber and Grab will be forced to provide transport data to the government “to help in transport planning functions”. Drivers will now face hefty penalties for any offence under the new regime:

“For identification purposes, all chauffeur-driven Private-Hire Cars (PHCs) must be affixed with tamper-evident decals issued by the LTA (Land Transport Authority) by the middle of this year. Together with our existing rules that require PHCs to be licensed as public service vehicles and to have adequate insurance, these measures help LTA better enforce against errant drivers and vehicle owners. The vocational licence framework will impose on PHC drivers the same demerit point system currently applied across taxi drivers. PHC drivers must also abide to a similar code of conduct and standards relating to cleanliness, dressing and more.

Operators could be fined up to S$10,000 per offence. The Registrar of Vehicles can also issue a general suspension order barring all drivers from driving for an operator that has had three or more instances of their drivers committing major offences within a rolling 12-month period.”

The Minister called the measures “light-touch” claiming that they have little impact on Grab and Uber:

“This light touch approach allows an industry which is still evolving to continue to innovate and benefit consumers while ensuring their safety. It is appropriate for now, but we will continue to monitor closely and adjust as needed.”

Despite the move claiming to leveling the playing field between PHCs and taxis, Minister Ng Chee Meng ruled that PHCs drivers will not be allowed to pick up or drop off passengers in taxi stands.

Just earlier today, Airbnb called out the Singapore government on their hypocrisy of opening up markets when Singapore is imposing protectionist measures to debar foreign enterprises from operating normally. Airbnb is banned in Singapore to protect the local hotel industry.