Protesters gathered near the home of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili " />

Taxi drivers in Tbilisi stage protest against new regulations

Protesters gathered near the home of former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili

A protest action was held in Tbilisi by taxi drivers earlier today, with a convoy of cars driving through the whole city to the residence of the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Taxi drivers demand that the adoption of new regulations be cancelled or, at the very least, postponed.

Protest near Ivanishvili’s residence

Protesters demanded talks with Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze near the home of Ivanishvili. The protest was attended by the leaders of the Labor Party, who supported the demands of the drivers.

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“It is necessary to postpone the introduction of these regulations as they will leave people without work, money and food,” said one of the party leaders, Giorgi Gugava.

The Labour Party gave officials two days to fulfill the demands of taxi drivers, and threatened to launch permanent protests should their demands not be heard.

An impressive police force gathered by the place where the demonstration was being held.

ტაქსის მძღოლები ბიძინა ივანიშვლის სახლთან აქციას მართავენ.

Posted by რადიო თავისუფლება on ხუთშაბათი, 11 აპრილი, 2019

What are taxi drivers protesting?

The main reason for the taxi drivers’ protest is the mandate given by Tbilisi City Hall that all taxis be painted white.

The mandate will enter into effect on 1 October 2019.

The municipality offered drivers vouchers worth 800 lari (a little more then $300). However, drivers say that it will not be enough and that repainting a car is more expensive.

Moreover, vehicles will subsequently be harder to sell at a fair price if the need arises. In addition, the process of repainting a vehicle means that taxi drivers will not be able to drive for several days, thus losing income.

“We demand that the order to repaint cars be cancelled, and to allow drivers with right-hand drive vehicles to operate and pick up passengers anywhere,” said one of its organizers, Lasha Chkhartishvili, before the start of the rally.

ტაქსის მძღოლები ახალ რეგულაციებს აპროტესტებენ

Posted by რადიო თავისუფლება on ხუთშაბათი, 11 აპრილი, 2019

How has City Hall responded?

Tbilisi City Hall has offered an alternative to taxi drivers: to apply a special white removable film to vehicles.

Deputy Mayor Iliya Eloshvili says this option will not incur additional costs. The film will be provided by a local advertising company, whose ads the taxis will sport for two years. Eloshvili also said that taxi drivers with licenses will reap additional benefits – they will be able to use parking places free of charge, will be exempted from income tax, and will receive vouchers for repainting if they do not want the film.

What do the regulations include?

A lack of regulations in recent years meant that anybody could be a taxi driver. All that was needed was a sign affixed to the vehicle indicating the service.

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze first spoke about the need for taxi licenses back in 2017, after which City Hall decided to introduce regulations in stages.

From 1 October 2018 it became mandatory for taxi drivers to get a one-year license which costs 100 GEL (about $40) for ordinary vehicles, and about 50 GEL (about $20) for hybrid vehicles. The license is free for electric cars. Driving a taxi without a license is punishable by a 200 lari fine (about $80).

Starting 1 October 2019, the use of right-hand drive and three-door vehicles as taxis will be prohibited. In addition, taxis must be white.

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