President rejects proposal to limit three-wheeler driver age

In a progressive move, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday rejected the controversial Cabinet paper imposing an age limit on drivers of passenger three-wheelers, highly-placed Cabinet sources confirmed.

The much discussed Cabinet paper presented by Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva proposed to impose an eligibility age criteria for driving three-wheelers for passenger transport. However, the proposal has come under fire from different quarters, including Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who publicly criticised the proposal, labelling it an unfair and feudalistic move. Further, the proposal was under fire as it was deemed to be unethical and against the law of the country to impose such an age limit. Had the proposal by de Silva been approved, any person who wished to drive a three-wheeler for passenger transport would have been required to be aged between 35 and 70 years.

Advocates of economic freedom have criticised the age limit and pointed out that three-wheelers have significantly reduced transport costs and increased the mobility of middle-income people, especially women, by keeping travel affordable. Reduced regulation has also allowed innovation to flourish in the industry, allowing for the use of apps and other technology to further bring down transport costs and improve price transparency.

Increasing the age limit would reduce competition and limit employment options for less educated youth. Experts have also pointed out that if companies were facing worker shortages they should improve wages and working conditions to attract workers rather than artificially keep people from moving up the labour value chain.

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