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A fare deal?
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 16 - 03 - 2016

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has issued a decree forming a ministerial committee to put an end to the ongoing row between taxi drivers and the Uber and Careem companies for car services. Ismail issued the decree on 9 March after taxi drivers blocked roads in Al-Mohandeseen and on 6 October Bridge for hours, causing serious traffic jams.
The committee, which includes ministers of transportation, finance, investments, social solidarity and local development, along with a representative of the interior minister, will discuss “private cars being used for commercial purposes and the drivers receiving payment for transporting individuals,” Ayman Salah, the cabinet's spokesman, said.
According to Salah, the cabinet tasked the committee to submit recommendations on how to deal with the controversy. “It also requested the committee to seek a swift legal resolution to the mounting conflict between white taxi drivers and Uber and Careem car services,” Salah said. The committee will also seek means of improving the current fleet of mainly white taxis.
“It is important to protect such companies which have provided a unique service to Egyptians,” said Salah. He added that white taxis face several challenges, including poor car quality and faulty metres.
But he was firm about the state's response to demonstrations by white-taxi operators, saying, “Recent protests by taxi drivers and blocking roads will be seriously dealt with by police forces.”
Late last week hundreds of taxi drivers used their cars in the upscale neighbourhood of Al-Mohandeseen to block roads. Police fired tear gas to disperse them. The drivers were calling for legal measures to be taken against private car companies like Uber and Careem.
The Union of Taxi Drivers has demanded that Uber and Careem suspend their operations in Egypt, claiming they function illegally because they use private cars, their drivers do not have proper licences and are not obliged to meet the same legal regulations and pay the taxes imposed on those operating taxis.
The union said it will file a lawsuit against Uber and Careem companies, claiming that taxi revenues had dropped on average by 30 per cent because of them.
Uber and Careem insist that they pay taxes and argue that they provide thousands of Egyptian drivers with employment opportunities. Uber Egypt executives maintain that they are engaged in community development projects and do not want to be regulated.
David Plouffe, an executive with Uber, recently communicated the company's long-term plans for its operations in Egypt. “We want to bring it to every part of Egypt and to intensify partnerships with NGOs, governments and businesses,” Plouffe said.
Ismail's decision was good news to the many users of Uber and Careem. Lotfi Abdel-Rahman a bank accountant and the father of five girls, said he believed the prime minister's decision was the best thing that could have happened to solve the crisis.
“Since the creation of Uber and Careem I have allowed my girls to take them due to their safety. Uber and Careem drivers do not argue about fees or where we want to go, unlike taxi drivers,” said Abdel-Rahman.
“It's great that the government has finally decided to legalise and protect a very successful service provided to us,” he added.

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