The number of taxis registered in the Sultanate witnessed the biggest-ever fall of above 30 per cent in the first eight months of this year. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), only 285 taxis registered in the first eight months as against 408 in the same period last year. The total number of vehicles registered during the period stood at 47, 417 as against 61,904 in the corresponding period last year.
Observers and taxi drivers univocally say that rise in fuel prices coupled with the introduction of new bus services have made taxis no more a lucrative business.
“In the recent past, taxis were a profitable business and a profession for school dropouts and retired persons.
“Now many are finding jobs as drivers in the private sector, which helps them get a stable and regular earnings,” said Talal al Mamari, a human resource expert.
Ever since the Mwsalat started new bus services to different parts of the city, cab drivers have been plaintive their income has declined substantially.
In June this year, two companies were awarded licences by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to operate taxis in the capital on a condition that meters are installed to calculate fares. “Our business has come down more than 50 per cent in the recent past. We are not getting enough passengers as most of them are now dependent on buses,” said Ismail al Balushi.
Yaqoob, another taxi driver who is also a higher secondary dropout, said some of his friends have found jobs in private companies.
“Not only do they have a scheduled work time now, but also a regular monthly income,” he said.
Some cab owners struggling with car repayments and other bills said they are considering other jobs during the day and just driving their taxis in the evening.
Ahmed, another cab driver, said even after working for seven days a week, he is unable to make up for the drop in income.
“I used to take a day off on Friday. But now I drive the taxi not only on all days of the week, but more spend more hours as well. Still, I am not able to get the same amount I was earning before,” he said.