By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Taxi drivers are supposed to benefit from the suspension of public transportation in Kuwait (KPTC, Citybus and KGL), but this is not the case. According to a cabbie named Murthi, they hardly get passengers, and if they do, it’s barely enough for sustaining daily fuel and food expenses. “How can we benefit if there are no passengers? Compared to regular days, we are struggling hard because we do not have regular passengers. If this situation continues, we’ll end up on the streets,” he told Kuwait Times.
“How can we pay our house rent? How can we have food on the table? The worst thing is that taxi operators still want to be paid daily. I have to pay KD 7.5 daily – I went to my boss yesterday to ask for help and if he could extend the payment duration since we do not have much customers. But he didn’t listen and threatened to throw us in jail if we do not make the payment,” Murthi lamented. “All we ask is to at least give us more time to pay the amount – it’s hard to produce KD 7.5 daily nowadays.”
In Kuwait, many taxi operators and companies own the cabs, and provide them to drivers in return for a daily payment. Very few taxi companies hire drivers on a regular monthly salary. “We are appealing to anyone who can help us. I hope the government intervenes and waives this amount for two months like some have done with house rents,” he said.
James, another taxi driver, also hoped his taxi company will heed the demands of many of his colleagues. “I hope the government will oblige taxi operators to stop collecting the money during these slow days. Business is down and we need some relief as well,” he said.
“There are few passengers now, and those that are taking taxis are low-income workers, because those who are still working have cars. Many people who are still reporting to work are menial laborers – they cannot afford to pay even KD 1.5. So we encourage them to share a cab; but remember, only three passengers are allowed in a taxi, so we cannot do more and need the support of the government,” James said.