Malaysia To End Taxi Slavery, What About Singapore?

Yet again Malaysia is moving ahead where Singapore dares not tread.
According to the Malaysian Insider, PM Najib will abolish taxi licences for corporates and and instead allow individual taxi drivers to own their taxi licences. In his words, “The leasing of taxis is a form of modern-day slavery which I do not like.”
Isn’t it amazing what the fear of losing power will do to politicians? None of the recent moves in Malaysia— such as the abolishment of ISA and the Printing Presses and Publications Act— would have happened if BN was not facing a strong opposition led by Anwar and PKR.
But in my view— apart from the political necessity of winning the votes of taxi drivers— the move to award allow individuals to own taxis is a just and long overdue move which Singapore should reinstate.
The vast majority of taxi drivers in Singapore do not own their own taxis. Out of over 25,000 taxis in Singapore, less than 400 are Yellow-Top taxis individually owned by the drivers. The rest of the taxi drivers hire taxis from the taxi companies, usually paying $70-120 per day excluding fuel charges.
The number of yellow-tops keep dropping every year because the Govt requires the owners to surrender their taxi licence once they turn 73, and it will not issue new yellow-top licences. Since the 1980’s, Govt policy has been to turn over taxi ownership to corporates while phasing out individual ownership.
The policy has its good and bad points. On the plus side, it allows those with little cash up-front to drive taxis; they don’t have to pay the huge upfront costs of buying their own vehicles. With sky-high COE prices these days, the cost of taxi-ownership can be a significant barrier to entry.
On the minus side, the ownership of taxis by corporates gives them huge control over the livelihoods of taxi drivers. It allows corporates to dictate the terms and conditions of the business. It also adds a layer of costs to the business that may reduce the earnings of taxi drivers.

I can appreciate that even if taxi drivers owned their own horses, they still need a plethora of services, such as a nationwide call booking infrastructure, which only corporates can provide. Thus in my view it’s inevitable that drivers have to work with corporates, even if they owned their own taxis.

However, I disagree with the govt policy to phase out individual taxi ownership. I believe drivers should have the choice of owning their own taxis instead of being hirers for life. It gives them a sense of safety and security to own their own asset, and may put them in a stronger bargaining position vis a vis corporates. For those who can afford it, a taxi can be an asset they can will to their children or sell when they retire, as the case may be.

Unfortunately Singapore has no strong political opposition that can make the Govt backtrack on this policy, unlike Malaysia.



About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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3 Responses to Malaysia To End Taxi Slavery, What About Singapore?

  1. Alan says:

    The trouble is that our own Govt owns the majority of these companies and in turn they need the profits of these companies to sustain the politcal support from their cronies, fat cats, and whatever, vital to the survival of PAP. This is one hard truth that even LKY will not dare to admit, I think.

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 28 June 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  3. Daniel Lee says:

    Individual licenses can be a possible option, where there will be a number of licenses in the market available for auction / purchase / sale. The price of these licenses will have to be monitored and moderated by a ‘taxi board’ to ensure that the price of the licenses do not rocket and become unaffordable, or end up tying a purchaser to a loan.

    i.e. Melbourne, Australia, operates an individual taxi license approach and the price of a license can be up to $500K, as a license holder can effectively set up their own company and have their employees driving taxis as well.

    I believe it is a scheme worth looking into, but possibly by an alternative government.

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