Enemies of progress


Legislation being drafted by the Transport Ministry that will transform Beat (formerly Taxibeat) from an “electronic intermediary platform” into a “transport services provider” is much more important than the war between the forces of stagnation and those of modernization. The aim of the new rules being introduced by the president of the SATA union of Athens taxi drivers and the transport minister is not to upgrade the evaluation and standard of services offered to citizens, as the bill’s authors like to point out. At least, this is not the only goal.

Athens had and still has a lot of taxis, and in the past few years, the quality of service has improved exponentially. Many of the drivers today are young, professional and respect both the job they’re doing and their clients. So what does the president of SATA do instead of starting a campaign that will ensure that the progress shown by what may be a minority in the profession becomes the rule? He undercuts this progress, undermines better drivers and better services, in order to bolster the narrow interests of the union.

What the authors of the bill are doing is turning against an electronic platform which, like others, has been instrumental in upgrading taxi services across the country by weeding out the lousy drivers. The new law also papers over a lot of serious cracks in the field: the criminal tactics of the owners of big lots where cabs are sold or leased; the practice of handpicking clients at ports, airports and popular tourists spots depending on where the client is going; drivers who rig their taxi meters to cheat their customers; dirty and dilapidated cars, etc.

Instead of rolling up his sleeves to work against corruption and poor professional practices in his field, the head of SATA is attacking a company that has introduced innovative technology to our lives. The question is, why? The man has been at the helm of SATA for years, suggesting that he’s good at his job at least. But instead of trying to analyze his political alliances and choices each time he causes waves, wouldn’t we be better off wondering why he seems so opposed to initiatives that will make all of the country’s cabbies proper professionals?

The draft law on taxis is not just another example of backtracking from the government. It is a victory for the shadow economy, for lawlessness, for vested interests and for the enemies of standards. It is yet another obstacle in the path of normalcy for a democracy governed by the rule of law.

Within a few short days, a petition to scrap the legislation and save Beat, which has around 8,000 drivers right now, gathered 25,000 signatures. Those who insist on downgrading the company must have something else in mind. It is not just this service that is being attacked by the new legislation; the attack is also symbolic in nature. And that something else they have in mind does not bode well at all.