Banning Uber, Grab will Protect Old Ways but we will be Left Behind: Singapore PM

Positive Passenger Experience and Service Efficiency, Thanks to Technology

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore can easily grab the attention of audiences, delivering speeches with substance, not populism.

Yesterday, he brought up the issue of Grab and Uber gaining ground in Singapore, saying: “We could ban them and impose restrictions to protect the ‘old ways’.

“But we will be left behind and our commuters will lose out, and our economy will suffer. The other way is to embrace change, let the disruption happen… but help the incumbents, and especially help the taxi drivers, to adapt to the changes.”

Embrace Disruption to Stay Ahead

As a big user of both Uber and Grab, particularly when I travel, I find the passenger experience positive, exclusive and economical.

The Straits Times today quoted Mr Lee as saying that Uber and Grab were examples of how industries and jobs were being disrupted by technology and globalisation. He was of the view that Singapore must embrace disruption to stay ahead which would also help incumbents adapt.

PM Lee

Mr Lee made the comments at the National Day rally speech yesterday, when he took ill with signs of fatigue and dehydration. He received immediate medical attention and, to the relief of Singaporeans, recovered and returned to the stage to complete his speech that I got to watch through the live telecast.

Uber and Grab benefit passengers through better, more responsive and faster services, he said, explaining that their “apps also analyse travel patterns, and adjust fares to match supply and demand.”

More Innovation through Driverless Taxis

Singapore has consistently been forward-looking, always quick to embrace disruptive changes. “I think we all know that we can’t stop progress,” he said.

Driverless cars running a taxi service will be the next wave of innovation Singapore will see next year. So “even Uber and Grab are going to be disrupted,” as Mr Lee pointed out.

Traditional taxi operators have often complained that with the entry of Uber and Grab, they have lost a level-playing field. Uber and Grab are not subject to such rules as a minimum mileage daily.

Mr Lee said such issues would be addressed to foster fair competition. He, however, pointed out that regular taxi drivers also had some advantages – while they can pick up passengers from the kerb, Uber and Grab cannot.

Lee's tweet

G Joslin Vethakumar

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