Cabinet to discuss Uber's entry into JamaicaSunday, June 20, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The controversial entry of California-based ridesharing company Uber into the Jamaican market will be discussed at Monday's meeting of the Cabinet according to Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
“On Monday morning that will be a major topic for discussion in the Cabinet,” said the Prime Minister as he responded to questions from a journalist at Sunday's virtual press conference at Jamaica House where he announced that a Zone of Special Operation (ZOSO) was declared for the violence-plagued community of Norwood, St James.
“Coming out of that [Cabinet deliberations] you'll hear a statement as to the Government's position,” Holness said.
Uber set tongues wagging across the local transportation sector last Tuesday when it announced that it had begun providing services in Jamaica. It had telegraphed its intention to do so three months earlier but since then there has been no word from the Government about Uber's entry into the country or the terms under which it is expected to operate on local soil.
Transport Minister Robert Montague has remained silent on the matter and the government's own regulatory agency, the Transport Authority belatedly issued a statement on Wednesday which, for some people, raised more questions than it answered.
And, based on reports across the media, taxi operators in particular want to know whether Uber, which is said to have operations in more than 10,000 cities across the globe, will be subjected to the same approval processes as stipulated by the Transport Authority and relevant legislation.
For his part, Opposition Spokesman on Transport, Mikael Phillips, has said that Transport Minister Montague, must “better explain the entry of Uber transport services in Jamaica and end the widespread confusion among transport operators and the commuting public”.
Phillips, in a statement on Friday, noted that public transport services are highly regulated in Jamaica through the Road Traffic Act and the Transport Authority Act.
He noted further that any corporate body or individual providing such services must obtain the relevant licenses from the Transport Authority (TA) before beginning operations in the country.
''The mechanism to protect our citizens requires that a TA Road Licence be acquired for a specific transport service,'' Phillips pointed out.
In its statement, the Authority insisted that no entity or individual is allowed to provide public transportation services in Jamaica without the requisite road licence issued by the Authority.
With Uber known to make arrangements with drivers/owners of private motor vehicles, the question arose as to whether such an arrangement would be legally binding in Jamaica where a public passenger vehicle (PPV) licence is required to operate. All public passenger vehicles must be fitted with a red plate.
But, according to the Authority, the “vehicle with driver” lease agreement being used by Uber is a new designation in the local public transportation landscape. It said the provision of public transportation services, irrespective of the terminology used, once deemed functionally as such, requires a road licence from the Authority.
The Authority said steps by Uber to get Jamaican drivers on its network may not eliminate the need for the company to engage licensed public transportation operators to provide its services.
And the Transport Authority disclosed that it previously met with the Uber team on two separate occasions when it was approached by the company intending to provide ridesharing services.
The Authority said that while it encourages diversity and engagement of technological solutions in providing services, it should be noted that any attempt to circumvent the provisions of the law will be taken as intent to operate illegally and not in the interest of good order or safety.
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