Editorial – why taxi regulation would only harm

In the wake of the kidnapping of an Argentine tourist within an hour of her arrival in Peru, the mayor of Miraflores has demanded that all taxi service from the international airport be formalized. That, he suggests, will mean that only reliable drivers can pick people up there – so all tourists will be guaranteed safe transit to their destination in the city of Lima. However, the idea is simplistic at best. It will mean that drivers will have to pay a substantial sum for a license, but authorities can still never perform the kind of exhaustive background checks necessary to spot the one bad apple in a city with perhaps 30,000 cabs.

Even if they could, this is the land of the grey market; surely a few hundred soles would still guarantee entry for anyone who puts a taxi sign in his windscreen – an investment that would be sure to pay off, intercepting new arrivals with all their belongings. 

What is more, there are places in Lima where you can buy a decent replica of a US passport for a hundred dollars. It is ridiculous to suppose that a taxi ID would not be a lot easier to forge. After all, what security does one get from a “secure” taxi? One way or another, someone I do not know will be driving me in his car. At bus terminals and cinemas all over the country people flash IDs at me and try to hike the price on the grounds that it proves a guarantee, but if the company that vouches for the man is also unknown to me, I am no better off. 

So, such a scheme would do nothing to hinder organized kidnapping gangs like the one that struck two nights ago – but it would definitely be an obstacle to tourists arriving in the country. At the moment, it is the so-called “official” taxi drivers who are most persistent and annoying at the airport, and it is they who show their “official” price lists quoting $17 to Miraflores, rather than 17 soles.   A free market, as currently exists among taxi drivers in Lima, offers the best service and the best value. If state regulation could remove the possibility of serious crime, it would be worth considering; but as it cannot, it simply adds the certainty of being fleeced to the chances of being robbed that we already run on arrival.  If the mayor wants to cut down on kidnapping gangs, he should attack kidnapping gangs — and leave tourists and taxi drivers alone.

See also:
Miraflores mayor speaks out on kidnapping case

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