Great interest in new taxi licenses

More than 8,500 applications for taxi licenses have been submitted to the country?s 13 regional authorities in the wake of the government announcing that it plans to liberalize the sector and Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis insists that he will not give in to cabbies demands to limit the deregulation.

The government has put its liberalization plans on ice following an 18-day strike by the taxi drivers who want the number of licenses that will be issued to be linked to each city?s population. A truce in the standoff was negotiated after regional governors agreed not to issue any new permits until the government has finalized its plans.

Attica Governor Yiannis Sgouros told Kathimerini that all of the 8,500 applications would be rejected, pending the final legislation from the government. ?Without the law determining the relevant criteria, how can we accept an application?? said Sgouros.

Cabbies are concerned the total liberalization of the sector would lead to firms or wealthy investors buying up large numbers of licenses and making it difficult for individuals to compete. Sources said that 4,000 of the 8,500 applications have been submitted by just two people. Sgouros was adamant those applications would not be accepted.

Ragousis, meanwhile, was also insistent that he would not back down in his bid to deregulate the sector, which suggests that a new clash with disgruntled taxi drivers is not far off. ?There will be rules but these will be liberalization rules, not ones to do with population limits, which the taxi drivers want so nothing changes.?

He also suggested that the cabbies? argument that their profession is ?oversaturated? is false.