September 25, 2017, 1:26 am
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Uber acting, under-thinking

Little among the recent controversies that erupt on an increasingly regular basis between regulators and the business world can show just how inept and incompetent bureaucrats are, as in the case of ride-sharing provider Uber. While government appointment protocols are infected with political partisanship on one end and on another, compensation structures that nurture corruption and payolas, the general perception is that the average competence and intelligence levels in the service are not very high.

As bad as that is, it warps doubly unfortunate where public perception is worsened by suspicions of insidious collusion with hidden interest groups whenever some inept factotum acts in an inequitable, discriminatory, if not un-intelligent manner. The case of Uber had turned into an illustrative example solidifying deeply negative perceptions for too-long held.

Peel off the veneer of self-righteousness that guises the economic agenda of the complainants-on-record who’ve filed charges against Uber and, behind the plastic laminate, it is easy to see an interest group that grossly violates the same laws they accuse Uber of skirting. From the epidemic criminality deeply entrenched among jeepney groups to the taxi and bus sectors, Filipinos coined the colloquial term “colorum” to describe an un-franchised and illegal albeit prevalent transport system.

Unfortunately, it is a system nurtured by insidious interests.

Analyze current investigations of those severely encephalitic lawmakers who insist on being addressed as “honorable.” From ego-tripping super-blockbuster telenovela investigations in aid of legislation on fraud perpetrated from inside banks to the hidden wealth and money laundering issues involving officers of government agencies. The former, an industry solons understand very little, the latter, money-laundering laws watered down.

The Uber debacle reveals where bureaucratic factotum totally missed the point and failed to understand their mandates.

While land transport regulation had its origins in 1906, in the nearly third of a century since the inception of the modern-day Land Transportation and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), that agency has had very little success in controling the proliferation of unlicensed public transport vehicles -- a major source of whatever clogs our streets, defying law enforcement albeit fattening the pockets of traffic enforcers. 

Officials of the agency admitted that upon taking office from the last dispensation the difference in the number of apprehended illegally operating vehicles sans a franchise was exponentially higher than previously recorded. We should complement such drumbeats. On the other hand, it is evidence of long festering dereliction and incompetence.

Simply circle around a congested street block plied by jeepneys, pedicabs, tuk-toks and tricycles. Notice the myriad of franchise violations from public utility vehicles operating with either license plates reserved for private vehicles, or those operating without plates of any kind.

These pose dangers for the public. Consequently, the exponential demand for Uber and the other alternative modes provided by the private sector were principally generated by the glaring incompetence and utter failure of the transport authorities, the LTFRB included, to provide a rationale, systematic, safe and convenient mass transport system.

While regulating traditional transport modes and fares lie with the regulatory agencies, the agreed-upon fares negotiated with Uber, seen by competitors and the authorities as inordinately high, result from regulatory incompetence more than the avarice of private enterprise Uber’s
critics claim. 

Uber’s pricing paradigm follows a free market based digitally documented private contract between ride-sharer and discerning commuters. The economic elasticities are telling. Uber’s market places a premium on safety, peace of mind, reliability, courtesy, and even cleanliness.

These, and many more are pricing factors largely absent in LTFRB’s antiquated model for traditional franchisees.

Uber commuters compare Uber’s prices against alternatives given the value of their lives, lost productive time and revenues endangered by LTFRB franchises granted to jeepneys, taxis and buses, and the un-franchised operating under these sub-sectors that the LTFRB has yet to control satisfactorily.

Unfortunately, by first imposing a blanket suspension, and then penalizing Uber and its market, broadly, indiscriminately and unfairly, authorities over-acted, over-reaching on one end, yet remaining grossly derelict of their charge on another.

The Uber controversy revealed once more the weaknesses of political appointment protocols. We should appoint regulators on the basis of both broad-based intelligence and profound analytical proficiency as well as enforcement competence. We seem to have too many myopic lawyers and one-dimensional police and military men. 

Apparently the chemistry of anachronistic and inapplicable LTFRB regulations were simplistically and blindly applied to novel and complex systems the crafters of such dated regulations had not envisioned. Hence the gross inflexibility and unfairness especially relative to the limited number of Uber’s violations of antiquated requisites against the immeasurable number of un-licensed illegally plying under the transport group banners of the complainants who so brazenly attacked Uber for their own benefit.  
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