The Color Code Conundrum: Critiquing Taliban’s New Taxi Policy

By: Jandad Jahani

The Traffic Directorate of Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban, recently unveiled a new initiative involving a change in the color scheme of taxis. This policy has been met with mixed reactions, with some praising it as an innovative move and others dismissing it as superficial and baseless. Despite this, both the public and the authorities tend to focus on the surface-level aspects of such issues. This article provides a more comprehensive analysis of this matter, exploring the multifaceted implications of the Taliban’s new taxi policy.

The Taliban’s Approach to Problem Solving

The political strategists of the Taliban have consistently demonstrated a pattern of providing superficial solutions to complex problems. This approach is based on the idea that changing colors and names can solve the many issues that Afghans face. This pattern is evident in their decision to change the color of the national flag, a move that was strongly defended despite being inconsistent with the nation’s history and identity.

The Taliban’s interventions have gone beyond symbols of national identity to encompass people’s clothing. They have enforced changes in clothing, requiring certain colors and styles, and instituting a strict dress code for female university students before completely prohibiting them from education and work. In government institutions, men are required to wear hats and turbans similar to those worn in Kuchlag and Quetta of Pakistan or in some areas of Afghanistan. The most recent of these cosmetic changes is the alteration of taxi colors.

Despite the changes made, the underlying causes of the difficulties experienced by Afghans remain unresolved. These issues are intricate and multifaceted, and require comprehensive and well-thought-out solutions rather than superficial modifications. By concentrating on minor changes, attention and resources are diverted away from more pressing matters such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to essential services.

Unjustified Economic Interference

The Taliban’s latest interference in the economic affairs of the people, exemplified by the alteration of the color of taxis, is yet another instance of their unwarranted imposition of high taxes, unnecessary laws, and restrictions, such as price controls.

Government interventions often have detrimental effects on the public, entrepreneurs, and the economy as a whole in the long run. Small businesses, in particular, may incur additional costs in order to comply with these regulations. Moreover, the disruption caused by these changes can have far-reaching effects on the economy, adversely affecting sectors that are not directly related to transportation. The long-term implications of government intervention in the economy are still a matter of debate. However, it is evident that it distorts market mechanisms and hinders economic growth.

The High Cost of Cosmetic Changes

The financial implications of the new taxi policy cannot be overlooked. It is estimated that repainting each taxi will cost around 50,000 Afghanis, which is a considerable financial burden that will ultimately be shouldered by either the taxi owners or the government. If the cost is imposed on the taxi owners, it would be an unfair financial strain. The money spent on repainting could have been used for more pressing needs such as maintenance, fuel, or even personal necessities such as food and clothing. If the Taliban government pays for it, it would still indirectly affect the public, as government revenue is mainly derived from taxes paid by ordinary citizens, shopkeepers, and motorists.

Furthermore, from an economic perspective in rural areas, the decision to alter the color of taxis is not justifiable. The resources used to repaint the taxis could have been put to better use, such as improving rural infrastructure, aiding agricultural activities, or increasing access.

Potential for Corruption and Misuse of Power

Public economics provides the theory of public choice, which examines the reasons behind public decisions. It often reveals that the objectives of officials and organizations can be in conflict, resulting in inefficiencies and failure in the public sector. In governmentled projects such as the taxi color change initiative, there is the potential for corruption and abuse of power. For example, it is possible that an official could make an agreement with a paint company, using the policy to direct business to the company and potentially receiving bribes in return. This would be a serious misuse of the policy for personal gain, eroding public confidence in the government and its initiatives.

The Taliban Traffic Department has declared that they will provide documents to taxis that have been painted according to their instructions. This raises a number of queries. Does this mean that these taxis were not in compliance with the regulations and would not have been documented under usual conditions? Are the authorities taking advantage of this policy to impose extra requirements on taxi operators? If so, this is an unfair and unreasonable misuse of national funds and taxpayers money.

Impractical Design and Enforcement

The Taliban Traffic Department has cited security as a rationale for the implementation of this new taxi policy. However, the stated goal is unlikely to be achieved unless all taxis adhere to the new color scheme. This is especially difficult to enforce in urban areas such as Kabul, where there are many unlicensed and unauthorized vehicles. To ensure compliance, the authorities may have to resort to coercive measures, which would be a violation of individual rights and freedoms, thus further diminishing public confidence in the government.

Furthermore, the policy does not take into account the realities of the taxi industry. Taxis are frequently used for a variety of purposes, including personal use by the owners. The required color may not be attractive or suitable for all applications, potentially reducing the vehicle‘s usefulness and worth.

Opportunity Cost and Misplaced Priorities

The Taliban government‘s decision to allocate resources to changing the color of taxis has raised questions about their priorities, as Afghanistan is currently facing a multitude of pressing issues such as poverty, unemployment, inadequate healthcare, poor infrastructure, and a lack of access to quality education, as well as the Taliban‘s ban on women‘s education. The funds, time, and administrative resources used for this initiative could have been better spent on addressing these more critical concerns. For example, traffic accident rates in Afghanistan are higher than the global average. Rather than focusing on superficial changes, the Taliban Traffic Department could have invested in initiatives to improve road safety, such as driver education programs, better traffic management systems, improved road infrastructure, and stricter enforcement of traffic rules.

The Domino Effect on the Public

The new taxi policy may appear to only affect taxi drivers and operators directly. However, this alteration has a knockon effect that impacts every individual in some way. The cost of the paint jobs could lead to higher fares for passengers, making transportation costlier for all. For those who depend on taxis for commuting to work, school, or for errands, this rise could put a considerable strain on their already restricted finances.

Additionally, any disruption to the taxi industry caused by noncompliance or protests against the new policy could result in a shortage of available taxis, further complicating the public‘s transportation difficulties and making it more difficult for them to carry out their daily activities.

A Missed Opportunity for Inclusive Policy-Making

The controversy surrounding the new taxi policy has highlighted a missed opportunity for inclusive policymaking in the Taliban dictatorship. Prior to the implementation of such a policy, the government could have engaged in consultations with taxi drivers, operators, and the general public. This would have enabled them to express their concerns, offer input, and feel more involved in the decisionmaking process.

Inclusive policymaking leads to better, more informed decisions and upholds the rights of citizens. Unfortunately, the Taliban do not respect public opinion; they have closed allgirls schools, banned women from education and work, and oppressed anything that does not align with their ideological perspective. The Taliban‘s new taxi policy is more than just a change in color; it is a reflection of their approach to governance and policymaking, and provides valuable insights for both the current regime and future governments in Afghanistan.

The criticisms and challenges it has provoked serve as a reminder of the intricacy of governance and the extensive influence of public policies. They emphasize the necessity of policymaking that is based on evidence, inclusive, and considerate, and that puts the wellbeing of the public and the advancement of the nation first.

Going forward, it is essential that Afghanistan‘s leaders take this experience into account. They should strive to create policies that not only address current issues, but also contribute to the longterm development and prosperity of the nation. It is imperative that they focus on meaningful, substantive changes, rather than superficial ones, in order to achieve this goal.