RECENTLY Kuching became one of many major cities in the world where Uber is operating.
As a Sarawakian, I am very proud of it.
However, some have been publicly sceptical about the business, especially politicians, both from the opposition and ruling party, who have different views of how Uber should do business in the state.
Many of them suggest
amending the law and obtaining relevant licences to operate. That’s odd. Why? Because the truth is when innovation
happens, sometimes new technologies can basically make laws obsolete.
It happens everywhere; Waze, GPS, Google, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, WhatsApp, Pokemon Go, ATM machines and so forth.
Did we regulate them after experiencing the creative power of the innovations? We didn’t.
So why is that not the case for Uber?
Even if they ban Uber in Sarawak, instead of backing down, the company might
decide to adopt a different business model, for example if they cannot drive people around, why not goods? What would it sound like if the politicians reacted to this new business model and said, “Let’s amend the law again, shall we?”
It has happened before in many cities and it can happen here too.
Another argument against Uber that I’ve always heard is a person can’t drive passengers around without having the relevant driving licence.
Is that right? If a person is law abiding, has a driver’s licence, has a car or van that has passed a safety inspection and has liability insurance, is there any reason a consumer-oriented person should not be able to become an Uber driver without the relevant licence to carry passengers?
Since his car is a consumption good (personal use only), with Uber, it enables him to drive his car for paying customers to earn extra income. He is free to set his hours and conditions of work.
Not only that, the person’s car be transformed into a capital good for whatever number of hours he chooses to operate as an Uber driver.
So now, whoever the person is – student, professor, farmer, cleaner or disabled person, he or she can easily become the capital owner.
This so important because for many years, economists, politicians and policymakers have been complaining about the widening wealth gap between rich and poor; and blaming capital owners for workers’ lack of control over capital and working conditions.
Uber provides a solution to that. It creates more productive capital and creates more capital owners in the state. What’s not to like?
How can we reduce the wealth gap between rich and poor Sarawakians if the politicians limit ‘Ubernisation’ through legal barriers to its entry and license it under the government’s system?