Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Well, its really a merry Christmas for taxi drivers in Singapore this festive season. And certainly a prosperous new year. I hate to take a Comfort cab nowadays, especially after 6pm EVERY day. From then till midnight, for all seven days of the week, the cabby will collect 1.25 times what the meter would read previously. That's pretty steep. So last Sunday evening after dinner at a restaurant, I opted to take the subway train home. As I was walking to the subway, I was looking out for a non-Comfort cab because their fares have (still) not increased. But alas, I reached the train station first. Well look at it from the bright side - walking helped to burn off some of the carbs that I had downed not too long ago, and I saved quite a bit of money as a cab would have had to criss-cross the island from the southern tip to the north-eastern tip where I stay. I wasn't sure if I would not vomit the food when I looked at the final fare on the meter.

Predictably, now that the largest taxi company on the island has increased its fares, all the rest will follow suite. Actually not WILL, they HAVE followed. And the quantum of increases is the same - that's Singapore's version of competition for you. Its rather twisted, really. More like collusion, and all with the blessings of the government, it appears. Its not the first time. The bus and train companies have practiced this twisted form of competition for some time now, with the blessings of the authorities which are helmed by leaders who are "educated" in prestigious Universities the world over at taxpayer's expense, no less. This is really a merry go-around that will sadden Santa Claus this merry season. Its not a season of giving, it is a  season of taking.

And the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), the PUBLIC Transport Council (PTC) and the Government are not raising a ruckus. The CCS says to the effect that if you are not happy, sue them. Nope, they are not going to front this. The PTC is rather silent as if they are party to this. And the Government insists that they just want to stay on the sidelines as this is a commercial issue. Unfortunately, Singaporeans are not in the habit of initiating class actions suites. We are a long-suffering lot. Perhaps timid. Mostly apathetic. But they pour out their frustrations on social media so that the World knows that Singapore really is not heaven on earth.

To be fair the authorities trotted out some numbers, and with the cooperation of the broadcast media, demonstrated how much cheaper it still is to take a cab compared to cabs in Hong Kong and London. Give me a break. They should know better. An apple is very different from an orange, no? But maybe to them, apples and oranges are fruits, so the comparison is valid. Sheesh, you can't win. Or should I say the cabbies win. The cab operators win. The taxman (government) wins. And we the long-suffering consumers are the losers.

I really must get used to taking the bus and the train, not that those are without their own set of problems. Well, I'll TRY to be merry and look forward to the new year, though this December has brought more than its fair share of bad news, much of which are really avoidable.


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