The Myanmar government is looking at coming out with regulations to govern the technology-based ride-hailing app space, seeking to provide a level playing field to the operators.
Nilar Kyaw, Minister of Electricity, Industry, Transport & Communication said at the regional Parliament earlier this month that the Road Transport Administration Department and the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA) were working together to regulate the mobile application-based taxi services that have gained popularity in Yangon since the past few years.
The Road Transport Administration Department currently handles the issuing of licensed taxis in Myanmar. Hence, the app-based taxi services are operating with licenced taxi drivers in Myanmar unlike other countries where private vehicle drivers are being recruited.
The minister said, the YRTA has held discussions with the four tech-based taxi services and was in the process of setting rules and regulations for the taxi industry to provide a level playing field and improve quality of services for the users.
Member of Parliament Nay Bone Latt from Thingunkyun township expressed concerns that the bigger and well-funded international companies operating the ride-hailing taxis could easily scrape out the smaller local operators in the business.
The competition within the major four players during 2017 has been hotting up as they sign on more member drivers and offer incentives to increase trip orders, resulting in a more convenient booking process for users.
Of the 54-million strong population in Myanmar, nearly 5 million reside in Yangon city, a hub for the ride app players. Nearly 90,000 taxis operate in the city while official figures from the Road Transport Administration Department estimate the number to be over 67,000.
The four app-based ride-hailing firms operate taxi service (cars) in Yangon while Oway Ride recently introduced three-wheeled taxis in Mandalay and Grab is now providing a beta test on the app-based motorcycle in Mandalay.
The fast-growing ride-hailing sector – seen as a panacea to congested cities – has triggered regulatory reviews to fresh formulation of guidelines governing this space across various countries in the region.
For instance, in Thailand, the transport authorities have found that drivers of the ride-hailing services were not properly registered or insured and the payment system have failed to meet the regulations. A number of drivers in Thailand have been fined and the state is considering using an emergency measure to shut down the apps if needed.
In Indonesia, new regulations on the taxis, effective since April 1 2017, have been criticized by the ride hailing app-based companies. The new regulations allows municipalities to set a price cap on fares charged by the app-based taxis. Apart from that, the norms also place a ceiling on the number of vehicles operating in a district.
A foreign investor in Myanmar, requesting anonymity, said, any regulation “should apply equally to both foreign and local participants and should not be burdensome. It should aim to give Myanmar consumers the greatest choice.”