Jakarta. Ride-sharing applications like Uber and Grab will be given assistance from the government to apply for permits to operate in the country, in an effort to bring to an end the year-long debate over the apps' legality.
Communications Minister Rudiantara announced the decision after meeting with representatives of the companies after a limited cabinet meeting with President Joko Widodo at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Tuesday.
"There are laws, but the public also wants more comfortable and affordable public transportation services," Rudiantara said.
The meeting came a day after large-scale protests by public transport and taxi drivers in Jakarta demanding Uber and Grabcar, which they claim fail to comply with the 2009 road traffic law, be banned. Uber and Grab denied the accusation, saying they are technology companies and therefore don't need to comply the road traffic law.
Representatives from Uber and Grab met with the minister, the Transportation Ministry's directorate general of land transportation and the head of Jakarta Transportation Services. All parties agreed to resolve the issue within the current system, with regulations adjusting to technology developments.
"This is to ensure that those applications will still be able to run," Rudiantara said at a press conference in his office on Tuesday (15/03). "The permits are currently being processed. We will assist until the process is completed."
The permits will be issued after the establishment by the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry of a business entity which will comprise the web-based companies, as decided in the meeting.
"There should be a coordinating body for owners of these online businesses," Rudiantara said.
The applications, which are currently not legally recognized as legitimate transportation services and do not pay taxes, have been a source of confusion since their first introduction to the Jakarta market.
Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan issued a letter in November to law enforcement stating that all Uber and app-based motorcycle taxi services are banned.
But the move was quickly condemned by the public and other government officials, with President Joko Widodo overruling it within hours.