NEWS

Carrot-and-stick plan for cabbies

As Transport Ministry officials tweak the final draft of a controversial bill liberalizing the taxi drivers? sector ahead of a Cabinet debate on the reforms scheduled for tomorrow, Kathimerini has learned that the government is planning to fine cabbies who sold their licenses without paying the necessary transfer tax.

According to the plan, the money raised from these penalties would go into a fund that would allow the cash-strapped government to offer tax breaks to cabbies who have acquired their license legally in the past few years.

Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis has insisted that he favors full ?liberalization? but there will be some restrictions. Cabbies applying for new licenses will have to own a new vehicle that produces low carbon emissions, have good knowledge of Greek, and pay an application fee that may be as high as 30,000 euros as opposed to the originally proposed sum of 3,000 euros, according to sources.

Last Wednesday, the head of the SATA taxi owners? union, Thymios Lyberopoulos, said that cabbies would wait to see the final wording of the government?s bill before deciding whether to strike, as they did earlier this summer.

The taxi drivers? sector is one of dozens of so-called ?closed? professions that Greece has promised its foreign creditors to open.

A ruling by the Council of State, the country?s highest administrative court, at the end of last month, was a boon for the government as it backs the removal of restrictions from certain occupations, noting that the ?right to free choice of profession and the absence of restrictions in exercising it is enshrined in Greek and EU law.?