Fare Treatment: New taxi laws not yet ready for traffic

Fare Treatment: New taxi laws not yet ready for traffic

License requirements hit taxi business.

Taxis on Yerevan streets without chauffer license plates and without meters have been outlawed since April 1.

According to Armenia’s Law on Automobile Transport, adopted in early 2007 and a subject of controversy last year, foresees a special licensing process for taxis in Armenia.

The process of licensing, which began on June 22, 2007 and was to have been completed by August 1, 2007, was prolonged until April 1, 2008. But still not all taxi services and private taxi drivers have a license.

Vahan Ohanjanyan, who heads the Department of Communication Inspection and Licensing at the RA Ministry of Transport and Communication, told ArmeniaNow that 161 licenses have been granted, another 50 companies have applied for licenses.

“These figures change every hour as every five minutes new companies apply for a license,” says Ohanjanyan.

According to the data of the State Tax Service, today 1173 agents in taxi business operate in Armenia. In other words, even 10 days after the law came into force, only 13 percent of agents have been registered.

Ohanjanyan says that today road inspectors can check and fine taxis which have no license or do not meet its requirements. For the first time the fine will amount to 20,000 drams (about $65), for the second time – 40,000 drams (about $130), in case of subsequent violations the offender may be suspended.

To obtain a permanent license a taxi service is to pay 200,000 drams ($650), cars should be no more than 10 years old, have a meter, seatbelts, etc. Besides the one-off fee for the license, the company is also to pay 200,000 drams (or about $650) per year.

It is these requirements that are unacceptable for private taxi drivers. One driver told ArmeniaNow that he would not be able to drive his car anymore as it is 11 years old.

“Besides, I cannot work in the taxi field because I earn 2,000-3,000 drams ($6.5-$10) a day and half of this sum I spend on fuel and repairs,” he says.

At the end of last July, after several days of protests by taxi drivers Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan postponed the process of licensing for eight months with a view to differentiating requirements for private entrepreneurs and taxi services.

Ohanjanyan says that a change will be made in the Law on State Duty according to which private cab drivers will pay only 25,000 drams (about $80) for a license.

“Among 161 licenses only one was granted to a private entrepreneur and, frankly speaking, we also do not advise that private taxi drivers apply now. The amendment to the law is already going through a second reading and soon it will be adopted. They had better wait for a while, otherwise if they apply now, they will have to pay 200,000 drams,” he says.

Not all license requirements are acceptable even for taxi services. Edgar Aloyan, director of the “Anahit” taxi service, thinks that the new law is a sort of eyewash. “It is probably the initiative of tax bodies, as they cannot find out how many cars each taxi service has and try to count them this way.”

Aloyan says that they have had no problems either with the year of [cars’] production or other requirements, but at the same time he points out that “the law is very slipshod and ungrounded.”

Ohanjanyan says the companies that worked in keeping with the law, i.e. their cars had technical books, drivers had proper driving licenses, possessed legal documents if they used gas as fuel, etc. accept the process positively.

Yerevan residents also view the process as positive. Armine Melkonyan is happier with the fact that all taxis must have meters from now on. She claims that sometimes private taxis charge 1,000 drams for a ride that should be half that.

“I think this change is positive. They will either install a meter, or will go out of business,” says Melkonyan.