KUWAIT: A man talks to a taxi driver at a street in Salmiya. – Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Taxis resumed services on July 28 after almost four months of hiatus, but some taxi drivers are complaining about competition from private or unmarked taxis. “I hope the government will stop the use of private cars as taxis. They have a great advantage now because they can earn more money than us, because they can carry more than one passenger, while taxis are not permitted to take more than one passenger,” a taxi driver said.

The government decided to suspend all taxi services on March 25 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, based on Kuwait’s five-phase plan to return to normalcy, taxis returned to the streets of Kuwait with the onset of phase three. “The problem now is the low count of passengers. We are in direct competition with private cars that are still picking passengers from the streets. If this continues, we will not be able to pay KD 7.5 daily (to taxi operators),” he said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he said his average daily income was KD 30 to 35, but now it’s barely KD 10. “We have to pay our operators KD 7.5 daily, so how much is left for us? Not even KD 3. So we are in great trouble. How are we going to survive? We have families to feed as well; we have to pay the rent and for food. The KD 3 is barely good for the gas to run the taxi. So we have nothing left for ourselves,” the cabbie said. “We hope the operators will be flexible or give us a discount, but they won’t listen. They said we are back to work and now we need to give them the daily fee of KD 7.5, or even KD 10,” he added.

In the absence of taxis, some private cars have taken advantage of the situation to pick up passengers. According to taxi operators, these unmarked taxis are still plying the roads. Meanwhile, in the absence of buses, people are complaining about the passenger limit. “If we are a family, do we have to take separate taxis? I hope the government will consider this and allow buses to run again soon. We have to save money for our families too,” a passenger opined.