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It was a nice change last Thursday, coming back to Kuala Lumpur from Larkin, Johor Bahru (a few kilometres north of Singapore). Got a bus fast, from a good company (Konsortium), and the standard, government-blessed price of RM24. Got home fast, no thanks indeed to speed limits.

But still, stepping out of bus 170 (a Singapore public bus) in Larkin, the touts seemed especially desperate, one actually following me and grabbed me by the shoulder. I guess he assumed me ignoring him must be because I’m deaf, and thus require physical touch.

But perhaps the solution to the problem of touts is to legalize it. What happens in status quo, is that if a tout promises the stars and the moon but you find yourself making 20 stops on your way to Yong Peng (an hour north of Johor Bahru) – you have no recourse. The purchase isn’t a contract because purchasing tickets from touts is illegal – you do so at your own risk.

And getting government out of deciding prices for intercity express bus tickets is another way to go. Express buses are not a necessity by any stretch of the word. And the government’s price tag on a bus ticket – standard, regardless of demand, quality of buses, when the ticket was purchased – is quite ludicrous. Touts is an easy way for many bus companies to make a larger profit.

However, when bus companies themselves can decide how much they want to charge, the market for touts would shrink greatly.

The problem (touts) was started by government action (price controls), and the government solution is actually counter-productive (placing the entire liability of buying tickets from touts on the consumers). Yes, the government should get out of this market.


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