Sunday, 31 December 2017

Wishing Everyone A Glorious And Happy 2018.

Today is New Year Eve. A year is coming to an end soon.

I would like to use this opportunity to wish all my readers

 -"A Happy New Year 2018 "

and also to give my brief take on this year happening from my simple perspective.

Undoubtedly, 2017 has been an eventful year. Internationally, there was an alarming threats of a nuclear war in East Asia after the vocal stoush between USA & N.Korea. At home, it was embarrassing that our PM had a debacle with his siblings that requires a parliament seating to clear the dispute and of course, the "phony" Singapore Presidential Election that installed a PAP preferred person without election.

On a personal level, the most fateful happening in my life is I can no loger drive a taxi for a living. I might look for another job or retire blissfully. Maybe I'll become a security guard, gardener or whatever to keep myself occupied instead of staring at the four great walls that surrounds me (remember Tom Jone's song).

Honestly speaking, there are many things I love about being a cabby -- primarily the people and the adventure, the unpredictability of each shift, and the endlessly fun game of discovering unusual places in Singapore -- places I would never visit on my own. And most importantly, as a cabby I can provide a free chauffeur sevice for my wonderful wife to work every morning.

But there are also a few things I could never come to terms with as a taxi driver, like traffic jams, accidents and all the abuses, assaults and insults that is so regularly heaped on Singapore's cabbies.

In 2017, I met a great varieties of people and had countless adventures. Most are nothing to write about.

I also experience the happiest and saddest moments in the last 365 days.

First, I was extremely delighted when my letter to the press was published. In it, I highlighted the plights of taxi drivers and debunked the wrong impression that driving a cab is a lucrative job. It was my first and only letter I ever written to the press. It gave me great pleasure to be able to say something in a national paper on behalf of my fellow taxi comrades.

Second, the saddest moment happened about a month ago. It has nothing to do with grieving of death, heartache of broken relationship or nightmare of financial disaster. It concerns an interview I attended for a direct-hire job as a security officer at a local hotel. The interview lasted less than 5 minutes although I look an hour to attend.

This was how it went:

Interviewer : "Mr. Lim, How old are you".

Me : "I'm coming 70 years old but I'm healthy and strong"

Interviewer : "Sorry, We are looking for people below 65 years old".

Me : "But I'm healthy and strong and willing to do shift work".

Interviewer: "Sorry, Like I said earlier, it's our company policy to give preference to applicants below 65 years old."

Me: "This job do not necessarily require a person to be younger than 65. I'm a licenced security officer".

Interviewer: "Ok, Please wait for our letter regarding your application. Thank you for coming to this interview"

The letter never come.

Age discrimination is one of the most pertinent problems that comes with an ageing population. Such discrimination includes rejecting potential employees who are over 60 years old, and terminating their contract when they pass the age of 60.

Is this any of your concern? One day, it might be.

Meanwhile, lisent to this wonderful rendition of the traditional Auld Lang Syne that make you want to stay in the old year.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Ten Years as a Singaporean Cabby

Today, I'm precisely 70 years old.

For the past several weeks, the thought of writing a recollection of my 70 years of somewhat eventful life has kept surfacing in my mind. I hesitated for the reason that I had not been accustomed to sharing my personal life in publication, albeit what was previously written in this blog.

At present, my memory is surprisingly good and dependable but a sudden change is always possible. Therefore, in this blog post, I shall only summarize veraciously my fond memories of my life as a cabby in the last 10 years and will make no effort in fine writing but endeavour to state facts of my taxi driver's life in such a way as to make them as interesting, intelligible and anecdotal as possible.

Today is also the day I had to surrender my TVDL (Taxi Vocational Driving License) to LTA as I would surely fail my compulsory medical test at Tan Tock Seng Hospital due to acute Glaucoma.

I'm now partially blind and is legally unfit to drive a cab although our LTA permits a taxi driver to continue driving till the age of 75 subject to passing a yearly medical test from 73 at Government Hospital.

The medical test fee is $200 but the actual test is extremely stringent, involving a thorough medical examination and a dexterity driving test. I decided to skip the test as I know I would surely fail the visual acuity test. My fate is sealed.

Now, what I write in these pages are not my autobiography but rather my enduring recollections, knowledge and experiences as a cabby and my impressions of men and women as I know them as passengers in my cab.

For a starter, I clearly recalled my needless fear on my first day as a cabby. My apprehension was not not knowing my routes but rather I was worried that I might pick up a friend or ex-colleague as my passenger. Then, I was bashful to be a taxi driver and had kept my new job a secret. Before becoming a taxi driver, I was an executive with a spacious office of my own but by a twist of fate, I got cooped up in a tiny confine of a driver's seat as a taxi driver.

Only my immediate family members knew my downward career switch and they gave me encouraging words to give it a try. With their support and encouragement, my transition to my new job was made much easier. I quickly came to term with my new circumstances and crushed my ego. I also took comfort in the pleasing fact that I was placing decent meals on the table for my family although as an unglamorous cabby.

In the beginning, I kept reminding myself with false pride that my job as a taxi driver would probably be temporary one as I continued to hurt for a more “respectable” career. But with God’s grace, it turned out to be otherwise a decade-long job and I've no regret whatsover.

Initially, I started driving with Comfort for a year as a hirer, sharing my taxi with about four relief drivers. None of my relief drivers stayed with me for more than three months due to various reasons. As a hirer and rookie, the stress and pressure of having to pay a daily rental of $110 was nerve cracking and always put me on an edge.

In total, I spent six years driving in the night shift and four years in the day. In my day shift, my first passenger was always my wife whom I send to work for free, which was the least I could do for her. 

After I fulfilled my first contractual year as a hirer with Comfort, I swiftly switched to become a relief driver. It was a wise move for driving then became less stressful and profitable. I never return to be a hirer again.

I drove for almost all the taxi operators in Singapore like Comfort, Transcab, Silver Cab and SMRT except PrimeTaxi. My last “taxi” was a rented private hired car with Grab. I’ll elaborate on the current taxi market and my driving experience with Uber and Grab at the end of this blog post.

I remembered on my first day as a relief driver doing the night shift, I drove for about five hours with one five minute toilet break at a secluded roadside. It was almost midnight when I headed to meet my taxi buddies at a Jurong coffee shop that I accidentally hit a road curb and my taxi crashed into a drain. Fortunately, the accident happened near the coffee shop where my buddies were waiting for me and I was uninjured. Shockingly, eight of us were able to lift the cab back to the road. We were 10 years younger and stronger then.

When I got home, my wife greeted me with a hug and said: "You have the typical taxi driver smell and beer". I told her about the accident and my beer treat for my buddies, many of whom are still my closest friends today.

I believe taxi drivers have always been a fascinating lot to most people and there remain so much you do not know about them. What are their background and driving habits?. How hard and why they become a cabby?. Who is a good and bad cabby?. How much do they earn a day? What impact has Uber and Grab on them now?.

Nowadays most Singaporean taxi drivers are fairly well educated, some at diploma level and bilingual too with a good grasp of both their mother tongue and English. They come from all works of life. Some are a former police officer, businessman, private tutors, ex-convicts, PMET, hawkers, labourers and you name it, they are in as taxi drivers.

A typical taxi has two drivers (day & night shift), splitting the rental cost and 24 hours usage equally among them.

A driver usually collects about $25 fare an hour and earns about $12.50 an hour after deducting fuel, rental and other expenses. On a monthly basis, a cabby typically earns about $3,500 for 10 hours of driving every day but without medical benefits, annual leave, CPF contributions and other perks of salaried employees. He is basically self-employed like a rental HDB shopkeeper.

Every morning, a day shift driver would usually head first to a housing estate like AMK, Jurong, Yishun, Woodlands etc.... as there are always passengers going to work from estates. If the passenger’s destination ends in the city, the driver would usually return to the housing estates again for new passengers. For the night shift driver, the agenda is the reverse but after the peak hours, there is no telling where the driver would end up.

One of the perk as a taxi driver is travelling to places in Singapore you would never go on your own or you never knew it existed. Although I've been on the roads for 10 years, I was always discovering new roads and places in Singapore.

Like new places, I get to meet new people every day. Some of my passengers get embedded my memory forever. Here are a few:-

On Day 1 as a cabby, my first passenger was a white Caucasian man in his fifties with white long sleeve shirt and grey trousers. He was fat with silvery hair and a bulging stomach. He got into my cab at Mount Sinai around 8am and wanted to drop off at Orchard Tower. I knew the way and promptly dropped him off about 15 minutes later.

After he left, I heard a ringing tone inside my cab. As it was my first driving day and in my excitement at successfully completing my first trip, I thought the sound was from my faulty taxi meter. It never occurred to my mind that the sound was a ringing tone of a cell phone which the white man had dropped in my cab and his wife was on the line trying to contact me. Later, I obediently returned the cell phone to the owner and was rewarded $5.

On the Last Day of my driving career, which was two days ago, I ferried the most beautiful lady passenger I have ever seen, from the airport to the newest hotel called YOTEL at 366 Orchard Road. Like most passengers, she kept to herself and spoke only a word of thanking at the hotel drop off. She was tall with a gorgeous body, fair skin, big sparkling eyes, silky black long hair and thick eyebrows. She would easily qualify as Miss Universe Philippine 2018 like former Miss Rachel Peters.

My best passenger was the one who gave me the biggest tip in my entire driving career. He was a Korean man in business suit. At 8 pm, he boarded my cab at Esplanade and wanted to drop off at Fullerton Hotel, a mere 3 kilometres away with a $6.00 fare, I thought. Another Korean man was with him and they spoke in Korean. The older man in his sixties was the boss as the younger guy was always answering in a pliant tone.

When we arrived at the hotel after the short trip, the Boss passed me a $50.00 note and asked me to keep the change. I never met another generous man like him again.

The worst passengers were a group of four office girls whom I picked up at Star Vista on one afternoon during lunchtime. They want to drop off at the driveway of their office at Ghim Moh Community Club. An unloading lorry had blocked the driveway and I was forced to drop them a mere meter away from their preferred sheltered area. The fat girl who sat beside me was furious and filed a complaint with Comfort, resulting in me getting the sack.

In general, if the passenger did not reply or uttered only a monosyllabic answer, I took it as my cue to be quiet and to just drive. Usually, passengers travelling in groups tend to ignore the cabby, talking among themselves as if you are transparent. In this way, I could not help eavesdropping on them complaining about the Government, and workers complaining about their bosses.

Often I’ve passengers who, literally made me feel sick. Like the old man, I picked up in Jurong polyclinic who coughed and sneezed all the way to Choa Chu Kang or the drunken young man who vomited in my cab. Then there was the Chinaman who burped and burped from a heavy meal of "ma la huo guo", or spicy steamboat throughout the trip.

Taxi drivers are usually helpless when passenger failed to show up at call booking or run away without paying. Every day, however, I would meet at least one or two passengers who are pleasant and polite, saying "please" or "thank you", or making conversation that helped to make a lonely job less monotonous.

Only one female passenger I took from the AMK to Pasir Ris sent Comfort an e-mail complimenting me, saying: "I am really impressed with his job attitude. Thank you, Uncle!" It made my day.

In Singapore, if you drive a taxi, you’re everyone’s Uncle or Auntie irrespective of your age because that’s how a passenger would frequently address a taxi driver.

Here are some secrets of the taxi trade for the uninitiated.

It's easy to get passengers in the morning when people are heading to work from HDB estates.

To earn $3 more in the evening, go into the CBD and pick up passengers while the CBD surcharge applies from 5pm to midnight. Sorry, but people waiting just outside the CBD will have to just keep waiting. Even inside the CBD, cabs will be scarce just before the surcharge hours begin.

Heartland towns like Woodlands and Semarang offer slim pickings in the evenings because residents hardly go out then. But hospitals everywhere are good places to find passengers, especially after evening visiting hours.

Overall, demand for taxis far exceeds supply during the morning and evening peak hours, so a cabby who is disciplined about driving during these periods can earn a decent living.

There are downsides as well. Getting caught for breaking traffic rules like beating the traffic light meant a $200 fine in less than a second - my earnings from about 18 hours of work!

Developing haemorrhoid from sitting for hours is a common ailment among cabbies, along with backaches, high blood pressure, kidney diseases, stroke and heart attacks. Having said these and in total honesty, I would love to continue driving till my last breath if our law and my health permit.

Name me a job that allows an old man the freedom to decide how much he wishes to earn, when to eat, rest and sleep on the job.

What better ways to spend one's time at twilight days then to experience new happenings every day and get paid at the same time?. But alas, it's over for me.

Today, I've a new found respect and admiration for taxi drivers who had survived more than 30 years behind the steering wheel and still going to places.

In conclusion, this blog post would be incomplete without a brief mention of the recent dramatic transformation of the taxi market in Singapore with the entry of Uber and Grab about four years ago.

Uber and Grab are essentially middle-man companies that provide a  mobile platform for passengers and drivers to complete a "hail-ride" at an outrageously cheaper price and faster quality service, compared to traditional taxi rides.

But they are in a very powerful position with the power to determine not only the price (fare) a passenger pays but also what a driver would get at the end of a trip. This opens the door to easy expliotation of the drivers by these middlemen who owns no vehicles, abeilt operating a private car leasing company under a separate business entity. The evil deeds of middlemen are common knowledge throughout the centuries.

However, the success of Uber is phenomenal and worldwide with operations in 600 cities and still expanding.

In Singapore, they had de-monopolized taxi operators like ComforDelgro and dominated the taxi trade with 70,000 private-hired cars compared to 24,000 taxis.

Out of curiosity, I drove a private-hire car with Uber and Grab for about three months and discovered that without their monetary "incentives" for drivers who achieved a set of tough "criteria" in a week, I was earning half of what I would normally earn as a traditional taxi driver.

Why? Because Uber and Grab fares are dirt cheap and they deduct a 20% commision on these cheap fares from the drivers taking. Apart from these two factors, a private car using petrol is more costly compared to subsidised diesel of taxis although rental is only marginally cheaper. On an average, a driver earns only about 35% of the fare after the 20% commission, 20% fuel and 25% rental. Out of a $10.00 fare, the driver earns a nett amount of $3.50 without Uber/Grab incentives. It's simply not worthwhile to drive for them if you're a cabby.

Therefore, a cabby should remain as relief driver but use Uber or Grab mobile application to increase their income with more call jobs. Leave the "Uber/Grab" business to non-professional taxi drivers.

Sadly, a traditional taxi driver who fails to keep up with technological advancement will realise that their rice bowls are porcelain made without iron cladding.

For me, as long as I'm healthy, I'll probably find another job as a security guard, petrol pump attendant, gardener, 7-11 counter staff or operates an online household and hardware sales site.

I shall continue to post at this site should I have something interesting or worthwhile to write.

May God Bless Everyone of My Reader.

Merry X'Mas & Happy New Year!!! Cheers
Also, Also

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Open Letter To SMRT TaxiShare

SMRT Corporation,                                                   Dated 28/9/2017
251, North Bridge Road,
Singapore 179102.

To: Mr.Tony Heng Yew Teck
      Managing Director,
      Taxi & Private Hire Service,

Dear Sir,

Re : Appeal for a Reduction in SMRT TaxiShare Rental Rates

I am writing to you Sir, to earnestly appeal for a reduction of the taxi rental rates under your SMRT TaxiShare scheme.

Besides being a regular customer, I enthusiastically encourage my taxi buddies to join your awesome scheme which provides flexible driving hours. 

I salute you on your ingenious and extremely popular taxi sharing scheme(Link) which has recruited numerous taxi drivers and has helped SMRT reduced her returned taxis volume, which is like a volcano waiting for the catastrophic eruption. 

Regrettably, SMRT has arbitrarily increased the rental rate within a short period after the scheme inception. In May 2017, the hourly rate was $5.55 from 7am to 5pm. Now, the hourly rate is $6.80 for the same increase of about 22.5% after 5 months and without sound justification, Your steep rental increase has burdened my buddies and me with higher running cost and made your scheme less attractive.

I hope SMRT is not killing the goose that lays the golden unwise action motivated by greed.

Nowadays, taxi drivers face immense competitions on the road. Apart from competing with a colossal number of Uber/Grab private-hire cars for booking jobs, we had to race with other taxi drivers from Transcab, ComfortDelgro, Premier for street-hail rides, which are sadly few, to begin with. Therefore, to earn a decent daily income, we have to drive longer hours, inevitably resulting in higher rental and fuel costs.

As you know, many taxi drivers had jumped ship to join the Uber/Grab as private hire car driver but not us. We are professional full-time taxi drivers, not inactive vocational taxi licence holders, retired or retiring drivers and are committed with SMRT to battle the private-hire car drivers, come what may.   

At this tough time, I hope SMRT could help comrades like us to lower our operating costs such as reducing the rental rates, improve incentives, consider share taxi ownership or any scheme that’s a win-win for SMRT and Drivers.

With improved conditions for the drivers, SMRT and drivers can surely overcome any obstacles that come our way, keeping the taxi battleship afloat together.

Yours sincerely,

James Lim


Today (2nd Oct 2017), SMRT TaxiShare just HIKED the rental rates again from $61.20 to $67.20  for 9 hours booking from 7am to 4pm (an increase of 9.8% ). In another word, the average rate per hour is $7.47 (previously $6.80/hour).

Instead of helping drivers mitigate their burden, they deliberately raised our loads. Why?, Why are they driving us away from them to join other operators or telling us to look elsewhere for another job. 

I wonder how those fucktards at the top think. Those idiots will surely sink SMRT like NOL sooner than later. The day will surely come.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Pathetic Singaporean Taxi Drivers and COMFORT

Returned COMFORT taxis

Prolonged competition from private car operators has made COMFORT, the biggest taxi company in Singapore to report a massive downfall in revenue. Its net profit for the second quarter ended June 30th 2017 fell 6.8% to S$79.4 million, a fall of S$5.4 million in 3 months. Moreover, DBS Equity Research forecasts a 12% fall in taxi revenue in Singapore in 2018, following a similar 12% for the year ending 2017.

She has never had such a hefty revenue decline in her decades of taxi operation and with the competitive "tsunami" not receding in the foreseeable future, investors confidence and funding are now restrained and this would surely lead to a cessation of taxi operations eventually unless a viable restructuring solution is found.

Compounding her revenue misery, COMFORT has a new enemy in Grab, a regional ride-hailing rival that's No 1 choice in Singapore. On Sunday night (Sept 3), Grab "attacked" COMFORT by alluring her taxi drivers with 40 percent rental discount if they switch camp to join rival taxi operators like SMRT, TransCab, Premier and Prime. To a taxi driver, this attractive rental discount would mean a saving of almost $1,500 per month. The discounts are higher if the cabbies take on a private-hire car through GrabRental. This would save them $1,688 monthly or about $60 rental a day. No wonder, COMFORT's share fell for a second straight day after this "attack".

Undoubtedly, COMFORT is now in deep water. She has been complacent for decades with deadwood management and operating with authoritarian auto-mood. Now, having caught napping at the wheel. she belatedly tried to shift gear and started talk with Uber about a partnership. This probably prompted Grab's recent attack. But I doubt anything positive would emerge from discussions between Uber and COMFORT.

Never did COMFORT anticipate that a day like this will come and is now licking her wounds.

Comeuppance time! my friends. Nothing makes me happier than this happening in COMFORT. I'm a strong believer in KARMA!

Remember the day when "monopolistic" COMFORT was a big brother and "governed" the taxi trade with rules that others had to follow. Remember how their disciplinary staff mercilessly sack loyal drivers without hesitation and investigation but merely based on a phone call. These dirt bags and dead woods in COMFORT will soon taste their own medicine.

Today, COMFORT in-house parking lots are insufficient to accommodate the colossal number of taxis returned by their drivers, so much so that she had to rent third party parking lots,

From reported estimates, nett rental income from two running taxis is needed to cover the costs of one superfluous cab in the shelter.  With 5 percent of excessive returned-taxis, COMFORT is suffering a 800 x $100 = $80,000/day ($2.4 millions/month) of loss of income, taxes and depreciation. Therefore, it's not a question of IF but WHEN will COMFORT close shop.

Two years ago, I predicted that COMFORT would face bankruptcy (Link). Today the reality of COMFORT demise is on the horizon like Temasek's sale of N.O.L. (Neptune Orient Lines) to France's CMA  CGM.

It’s disastrous when you have stupid people in charge of companies.

Please allow me to quote the following passages from my most admired blogger "Loh and Behold"

Quote (Link)

Taxi drivers used to be a spoilt lot, cherry picking passengers and disappearing whenever they are needed only to emerge when surcharges kick in.

There are at least 42,800 private-hire cars on Singapore roads today and only 26,000 taxis.

Flexible working hours and the perks of having a car are what attracted many to become private-hire car drivers.

Those still hanging on to the taxis are begging the LTA to let them double up as delivery drivers.

Today Uber and Grab are eating their lunch.

No longer finding it viable to continue as taxi drivers, many are returning their taxis.

You may be the cock of the walk, but a day will come when you’ll end up as a feather duster.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Grab's success spells downhill for Cabby.

A year ago, Mr Anothny Tan, founder and CEO of Grab, while celebrating his investor and global partner @Didi Chuxing‘s successes in China, told his staff, among other things that:

“Didi’s success reinforces what I believed all along. That a team that lives and breathes the markets it operates in makes a difference. Because our users are also people whom we care about – our families, our neighbours, our friends. And not just some digits presented on a business dashboard at the other side of the world in a different time-zone.

We must listen and put ourselves in the shoes of our users and partners. And ultimately deliver the best passengers transport solution in this region has ever had.”  (Link)

These are Wise Words from a young man

Anthony Tan, a Harvard Business School graduate, is brilliant and enterprising. He probably has the family gene as a grandson of Tan Chong Motor’s boss. While still a student at Harvard, he drew up a business plan for an Uber-like service that won his university school awards and backing from angel investors.

Anthony Tan knew from the beginning that he sells no physical product, only an idea and application that connects the user and the provider through internet technology. His role is only a middle man and the initial period was tough with many sceptics. He also knew that ultimately, the success of his enterprise depends solely on the user (commuter) and provider (driver) willingness to participate in his scheme.

Unlike many ivory tower bosses, Anthony has an intimate feel of the earth he farms. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get his business off to a great start.

Firstly, he gets his managers to drinks coffee with taxi drivers at street stalls to hear their motivation and talks to commuters to understand their frustrations in hailing for taxis.

Then he gets his battalion of foot soldiers to recruit taxi drivers at food stalls, coffee shops, taxi stands, airport terminals and shopping malls through face-to-face sweet sales talks and enticements like free non-alcoholic drinks and easy-to-win gifts. An overwhelming majority of taxi drivers joined him instead of his rivals EasyTaxi, Hallo and Uber. He did the same with commuters. 

After three years of hard and smart work, Grab expanded into many South East Asian countries and raised a few billions of dollars of investment funds from famous venture capital like Temasek Holdings.

Grab wisely invested in a new R&D facility in Singapore CBD that houses 200 engineers and data scientists. They also set up new software engineering offices in tech hub Seattle USA to attract talents and hired the best minds like Mr. Wei Zhu ex-Facebook creator. Inevitably and quickly, Grab developed exceedingly successful new application tools and features like JustGrab, GrabPay, GrabHitch, GrabNow and ventured into money spinner GrabCar.  

Today, Grab success is beyond words and recognition. 

What has Grab's progress and all its new developments got to do with a taxi driver like me?

Yes, it does and a lot!.

Initially, I love Grab simply because she gave me call-booking jobs that were never available before and improved my income considerably. More importantly, she dethroned the monopolistic COMFORT as the "big-brother" in the taxi industry. 

Within a short period of a year or two, Grab became the most popular taxi booking application in Singapore, kicking Hailo, EasyTaxi and other out of the market. Once Grab dominates the taxi industry, she makes the common mistakes that most corporation does. Among others, I think Grab had lost its "human dimension" in its management. They had forgotten Mr. Anothny Tan's  our users are also people whom we care about – our families, our neighbours, our friends. And not just some digits presented on a business dashboard on the other side of the world in a different time-zone. 

I reckon as a young courting couple, Grab wooed me with loving attention and generous gifts. Once married, Grab sets new rules and regulations in the name of peace, harmony and progress to regulate our partnership, turning me into a powerless housewife dependent on her husband allowance for survival.

For example

As a partner, I have no say at what price I get paid for the service I provide. I cannot reject too low price jobs that would make me lose money. If my rejection rate is above 85%, my account gets terminated without hesitation nor explantion.

Sad to say, many GrabTaxi drivers are doing more jobs through JustGrab and driving more hours but for less money. Is this right?. If you put yourself in the driver's shoe, you either choose a more reasonable price job to do or switch off the Grab application. But to turn off Grab application is suicidal as almost 80% of taxi rides are now through call bookings.

These days, street hailing jobs are very much harder to find. Hence, a mind-boggling majority of the 26,000 taxi drivers have no choice but to stick with GrabTaxi like an oppressed housewife with kids.

Grab is aware of the prevailing taxis drivers' dilemma and the management staff is taking full advantage of it through its dealing with taxi drivers. I think Grab is contemplating to reduce or remove taxi drivers in their booming platform GrabTaxi and focus on GrabCAR. You'll notice that all advertising money is spent on GrabCar, none for GrabTaxi.


Presently, there are more than 42,800 private-hire cars on Singapore roads, a figure which has overtaken the current taxi population of 26,000. With such massive numbers of Private Hire Car drivers in their fold and getting 20% commission from their ride-fare, any manager would surely want to push more jobs to these drivers than to GrabTaxi drivers whom they get only 10% cut.

Suppose a customer books a Standard Taxi ride via GradTaxi, Grab gets merely a fixed 50 cents administrative charge from the driver. If a GrabCar had done this job instead of a GradTaxi, Grab would earn at least $1.00, which is double and could be higher depending on the ride fare based on 20% commission. Simply said, Grab can make much more money from GrabCar than GrabTaxi. For this reason alone, Grab is tempted to remove the "Standard Taxi" option from their booking platform and GraxTaxi eventually.

In around June 2013, Grab claimed to be doing one booking every eight seconds or 10,000 a day. Today, it has gone up to 200,000 a day with rivals like Hailo and EasyTaxi out of the market.

Assuming that on an average Grab collects $5 a day from a Grabtaxi driver, based on 10% commission from 10,000 taxi drivers using JustGrab, Grab would profit $50,000/day. Multiply $50,000 x 30 days a month, its $1.5 million. If GrabTaxi drivers are removed from JustGrab and all these jobs go to GrabCar via Private Hire Car that has a 20% commission, Grab profit would double to $3 million a month.

Like all corporate business, maximizing profit is the greatest ultimate motivator.

Who cares about过河拆桥.
A Chinese idiom that says "To destroy the bridge after crossing the river. It means to abandon one's benefactor upon achieving one's goal.

Now, Grab does not fancy taxi drivers!. They are like COMFORT, getting rid of taxi drivers at the slightest mistake they made or a customer feedback or trivial complaint.

Grab is unfeeling like a robot and lets machines manage their relations and dealings with drivers. When a GrabTaxi driver rejects most jobs offered to him and his acceptance rating drops miserably low or when a customer triggers a feedback or complaint on their website, the driver's account is instantly de-activated (suspended) without warning nor explanation. The GrabTaxi driver could be fetching a passenger when his/her account suddenly gets deactivated, resulting in driver unable to collect the fare and passenger unable to make a further booking.

Recently, I had the exact upsetting experience when a customer feedback to Grab that my taxi number plate was different from that shown in my booking application. My GrabTaxi account was suspended instantly without notice or warning.

On calling and speaking to an Indian national on the phone, I was told to submit an appeal through their website, with nobody knowing the reason for my suspension. How could I submit an appeal and defend myself if I'm oblivious of the charge for my suspension?. Meanwhile, Grab withheld my earning of about $500 indefinitely without regard to my financial needs and hardship.

After 4 days and upon knowing the reason for my suspension, I re-appealed and explained that I was driving SMRT's TaxiShare that allows a driver to book and drive their taxis AS and WHEN we like. without a rental contract.

Under this flexible rental scheme, booking of taxis is on a first come, first serve basis and subject to taxi availability. I could be driving the same model of Toyota Pirus for four days with four different taxi number plate. I usually call my customer when my number plate is different from that shown on the booking application before I pick them up. Most of my customers appreciate my advance notice and my service rating is close to perfection at 4.87 out of a maximum of 5.

I wonder why a customer would be unhappy when the only change is the taxi number plate while the taxi driver, taxi model and taxi fare remain unchanged.

Nevertheless, Grab should not have suspended my account indiscriminately without first checking with me. Worst, they demanded that I drop by their office at Midview for investigation by their disciplinary officer, who refused to tell me the reason for the investigation and my suspension.

Honestly, I'm deeply distressed by the unprofessional work attitude of Grab ground staffs and is prepared to leave GrabTaxi even if proven that I've not committed any offence against my customer.

Three weeks had passed with my hard-earned earnings still withheld, while I wait for Grab's decision. Even Dr. Tan Cheng Bock's appeal case in the apex Appeal Court took less than three weeks to come to a verdit. I hope the senior management in Grab will investigate this case of unreasonable delay in suspension decision making. I wonder who holds the powerful function and authority to decide on suspension and termination? Is it in the hand of senior management staff or junior Tom, Dick and Harry?.

How could Mr. Anothny Tan allows such a harsh, inefficient and robotic management style to prevails in his company when he is a strong advocate of the human touch. What happens to his values and vision of friendly tenet in his company?

Unsurprisingly, when the only rival Uber has abandoned taxi driver to focus on the money spinning private hire car business, Grab now completely dominates the taxi booking platform. They are no different from COMFORT whose authoritarian style of management is well known among taxi drivers. If Grab is not careful, she would end up like COMFORT with massive drivers defecting to a new rival platform or simply dumping the use of her app.

I think in the next decade or so, very few people will hail taxis from the streets or queue at taxi stands when online booking of private hire cars are relatively cheaper, easier and faster than standard taxis. If taxi uncles want to survive in this cut throat trade, they must jump ship from "taxi-uncle" to be GrabCar or Uber-X driver. It will mean the downhill slide of the traditional cabby vocation and eventual demise of taxis providers like COMFORT and the rest of the players.

I hope a brave investor will come to give Grab a wake-up call like the way Grab shook-up COMFORT and the local taxi industry three years ago.

There is certainly room for another Grab-like service here.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Is Uber/Grab Good or Bad? Whatever, COMFORT is rotten.

I just received the following Whatsapp message from my taxi buddies:


Dear Comrades Taxi Drivers,

Prices of water, electricity, bus and train fares will be going up soon.  But a third party app provider, Grab has now controlled all taxi companies except Comfort and set taxi fares.  That is not correct. PTC has allowed the taxi companies to set the taxi fares and not a third party app provider.

Grab has reduced the taxi fares so much that it is cheaper to call a taxi than to queue at taxi stands or flag down taxis.  Comfort has also started fixed fares but they have kept their rates at the current prices inclusive of surcharges.

Comrades don't let Grab fool you with the incentives.  If you do your Maths, you will realise that you lose more when you pick up JustGrab jobs.  They are forcing you to do the jobs with the Acceptances rates.

Amidst the competition between Grab, Comfort and Uber,  taxi drivers are the end losers.

Grab is now reaping huge profits.  Grab is not interested in the drivers welfare.  Grab had promise more jobs with Grab pay.

Ask yourself How many jobs can you do with an hour?
At the most 3 or 4.

Taxi drivers are not robots who should drive around collecting cheap fares.

You should not allow Grab to exploit you with cheap fares.
How can Grab set the same fares for cars and taxis when there is so much a difference in the rental rates.

Basically, Grab has set low fares to pull customers away from Uber and Comfort. Grab is not reaping huge profits but at the expenses of taxi drivers.

Did Grab consult taxi drivers before setting the fares?

Several emails have been sent to them on this matter but they just refused to address the issues.

Grab has gone further to remove classifications of drivers and had given no thought for drivers who had come a long way with Grab from day one.

If Grab is really interested in the drivers' welfare then they should do away with the Acceptance rate and just give the incentives as long as you hit the target.  But their intention is for you to drop below the AC rate so that they don't have to pay you.

Comrades Taxi Driver, don't let Grab fool you and exploit you with their incentives and medisave payments which are not substantial to cover the losses from the JustGrab jobs"

I instantly responded as follows:

Dear Comrades Taxi Drivers,

Grab/Uber has dethroned COMFORT as "tai-core" (big -brother) and I think it's a good thing.

For years, COMFORT has been ill-treating their drivers because they are a monopolist company like a dictator. They call the shots in the taxi industry as they command 90 percent of the taxi fleet on Singapore roads.

They never look after their drivers' welfare or improve their operating system as most of the staff are old dead woods adverse to changes. Worse still, at the slightest trivial mistake or customer complaint, they sack their driver arbitrarily without hesitation. They only listen to and accept the customers' complaints without question or proper investigation. Heaven forbids, they even reward customers with taxi vouchers if a complaint is successful.

As a COMFORT's driver, we never heard of incentives except if you become their slaves as a hirer.

Now Grab/Uber at least incentivize you if you work harder and achieve certain targets.

Look, nobody puts a gun to your head to force you to take Grab/Uber call jobs. Ignore their call jobs if they are not worthwhile or profitable.

I never do their $5 or $6 call job. As a driver, I take only call jobs which are reasonable or profitable.

Don't worry brothers/sisters....Grab/Uber will eventually increase taxi fares because their present operation is not sustainable....they are running at a lost at this moment.

On hindsight, I don't even have these call jobs before Grab/Uber enter the market except when you're a COMFORT driver.

I must thank Grab/Uber but hope they will set taxi fares at a level that's fairer for both the commuters and taxi drivers.

I hope Uber/Grab bankrupt COMFORT soon or more taxi drivers abandoned them and join other more supportive taxi operators or become private car drivers.
COMFORT returned taxis at one of many roof top garages
StraitTimes news report on 17th July 2017

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Gardening at Retirement.

In six months time, I’ll be returning my taxi vocational license back to LTA as I would surely fail the compulsory 70 year old medical test at Tan Tock Seng Hospital due to glaucoma.

So, Congratulations, I’m ready to retire from driving and working. I’ve spent the last ten years driving people to work, play and whatnot and also a lifetime taking care of my family.

Is now the right time to retire? But what if retirement turns out to be too easy with nothing much to do and boring? 

On hindsight, I'm glad I started planing about a year back on what I want to do when the dreadful day finally comes, so that I'm ready for a smooth and happy transition with fulfilling activities. 

There are hundred of ways to stay busy and engaged with life at retirement.

To name a few:

. find another easy job,
. do volunteer work,
. start a business, 
. travel,
. start a hobby,
. do physical activity like swimming, jogging,
. learn new things like cooking, art painting or gardening. 

For a starter, I've decided on gardening.

I'm a novice in gardening with no formal education or training in farming or plant science. I've no knowledge about soil and fertilizers, pests, diseases or best practices to produce great flowers and food crops. But I always believe that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Therefore, my ignorance is no deterrent because I can access a wealth of free knowledge and advice from the Internet and Facebook groups like SG Container Gardening & Vertical Farming, Urban Farming and many others.

I love nature, trees and plants especially beautiful flowers but never thought of planting them. I stay in an ordinary HDB apartment without the luxury of a plot of land, lawn or balcony. But I've two meters wide and five meters long common corridor with about six hours of morning sunlight. 

More importantly, I've a wonderful young couple neighbor who empathizes with this old man's need to keep himself busy with fulfilling activities. No worries, my corridor is always neat and clean with no stagnant water. My only worry is trouble from my town council.

Please allow me to share my gardening journey with you.

Through the years at my present dwelling, I had collected a few beautiful antique looking clay pots discarded at my neighborhood junk bins. I never used them.

A year back, I found the inspiration to do something with them. I created my first real gardening attempt. I planted a few easy growing flowering plants on them. I've no idea what are the names of those plants. When they survive and starts to bloom albeit my rough work, it brought me sweet confidence, joy and a belief I've green fingers to begin a journey of faith in gardening.

Gardening somewhat transforms my lifestyle and daily routine. Although I love nature, I was never a gardening person and my knowledge of horticulture is elementary. But on my retirement leg now I need something physically easy yet spiritually enriching. 

A month later I decided to build my gardening racks below my window so that I have more planting space. My tools and fertilizers are kept below my kitchen sink. 

After the brick racks were painted and wooden planks laid, I had no idea what to plant, where to plant, what are the plant needs and how I like my garden to look like. Every single day thereafter I spent thinking, learning from Internet resources and planning.

Initially, I scout and "stole" suitable plants and cuttings at road-sides, public parks and private estates as I drove my cab around Singapore. After a while, I found this illegal way of collection rather nerve racking and gave up.  

My original plan of growing only flowering plants was changed to include food plants for the kitchen as well as fruits. But this ambitious endeavor fails miserably. All my vegetables and fruits plant dies after germination.

So here I am. Over the months I've made a few mistakes, overcame a few, but continue to challenge myself to perfect my skills. My aim is to know all my plants and deliver the right growth conditions to them so they, in turn, reward me with beautiful and healthy flowers.

Today I have about 80 different plant types in my 'little garden'. Fortunately, most are easy to care and require little or no attention other than occasional fertilizing and pruning.
As long as I'm able to take care of my plants, I'll keep to my daily rituals of attending to their needs in exchange for the pleasure they provide me.

My pride is my garden is possibly the prettiest in my block. I like the challenge of growing my flowers from seeds or cutting instead of buying from nurseries. I take pride in arranging my plants to get the best of the sunlight. I've also learned much from internet gardening tips and resources as well as from gardening groups I joined.

I'm happy to discover this enjoyable recreation for my retirement days and I pray for many many years to look after my little garden and enjoy the "fruits" of my small labour. Gardening is fun and I encourage those who are about to retire, or already retired and with some space to develop a small garden, to start gardening. Whether its for pleasure or for food, it will help you spend your time fruitfully. I wish I's started it several years earlier but like in many other things, it's never too late. Good Luck!.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Compelling Confessions of a Ex-CHC Ministry Member.

Hi Everyone, I'm still around.

For the benefits of my overseas readers, please allow me to plagiarize the following texts from our social media on the most controversial sentencing in the history of Singapore appeal case. 


The High Court has reduced the sentences of all six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders on Friday (7 April) in favour of their appeal.

The founder and senior pastor Kong Hee has had his prison sentence reduced to three years and six months from eight years. Others had theirs reduced too, some by more than 50%.

The hearing was attended by a three-judge panel - Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn.

The verdict was finally delivered after the long-running trial which started in 2013.

Many netizens commented that the charges were simply unfair as they misappropriated $50 million, saying that they were setting bad examples. 

Here are what they wrote in full: 

Zhengquan Qin wrote, 
"K Shanmugam, what is wrong with our judicial system? 
What message are you sending to the kids? 
That white collar criminals get major discounts off jail time? 
If this kind of injustice is allowed to persist in our systems, I really fear we will head down the path of seeing a trump like populist administration one day. 
When the public loses complete faith in the "establishment". 
Do you really want this?" 

Ivan Yong wrote, 
"I have lost faith in SG justice system. Rich people can get away with a crime committed." 

Kang Chin Lin wrote, 
"This is the saddest day in Singapore's Judiciary. 
The Supreme Court Judge must be a Christian who sympathises with these corrupted crooks who call themselves Christians by giving all of them a reduced sentence. Such a disgrace to the Christian community. I bet you if LKY is still around, none of this nonsense would have existed!" 

Colin Phua wrote,
"Who wants to open a church? Count me in. 
Let's call it holliest of holliest church ( HHC). 
Scam people use people money pay lawyers then the got halves the sentence.
Meantime the wife can continue business as usual. 3.5 years later hubby comes out jail can still stand and enjoy.
Kill people death sentence but scam people gets only 3.5 year jail. 
Great business model. 
Pm me to set up HHC"

The appellate court's judgment in the CHC case is troubling.

First, the court said the accused were not acting "in the way of the business of agents", thereby reducing the aggravated CBT charge under s409 PC to the simple CBT charge under s406 PC.

It said that while the accused held important positions in the church, they were not acting as "a professional agent" who offers "his agency services to the community at large and from which he makes his living". The accused only had an "internal" relationship with the property they were entrusted with, which "stands in stark contrast" to an "external" relationship an agent would have with a customer.

Whilst it is technically tenable that the accused are not in the business of providing agency services (to other churches, at least), such a definition of "agent" is archaic and overly narrow.

An agent, simply put, is someone who acts on behalf of another. S409 PC does not add the prefix "professional" before "agent" and neither should we.

It is not true that all agency relationships have to be "external". Some agency relationships can be internal. For example, a federal agent is an employee of the government, but is still called as and acts in the capacity of an agent of the government; a representative of a company authorized to speak on its behalf could be an employee, but is still regarded in such context as an agent of the company.

Similarly, an executive committee of a church entrusted to handle the church's funds should also be regarded as an agent of the church in the handling of such funds.

Second, the court said there was no personal gain by the accused. Whilst it is factually correct that the accused did not personally pocket the money, a finding that this is a mitigating factor is again overly narrow.

The law of contracts used to state that third parties to a contract may not enforce the contract, since they provided no consideration for it. This has since evolved such that third parties may now enforce contracts that benefit them in some way.

This recognized the principle (and reality) that people sometimes do things not to benefit themselves but a third party. If so, people who defraud to benefit a third party (such as their friends, leaders, pastors, pastors' wives) should also be just as culpable as people who defraud to benefit themselves.

Most importantly, the court said the accused acted in what they "genuinely believed" to be the best interests of the church.

And that "their fault lies in adopting the wrong means".

In other words, the accused had good intentions and did what they did in the name of and for the glory of their religion. They had simply used the wrong methods.

As CHC supporters believe, the accused may have violated the laws of man, but they did not violate the laws of God. And that is what matters.

This is dangerous.

And it underscores a deeper, perennial problem with blinded religious extremism and devotion in society.

You may believe that God is supreme. But just because something is done by a person with the best of intentions in the name of God doesn't thereby make it right.

A religious zealot harming innocents via holy wars, suicide bomb attacks and passenger plane missiles also says he does it with a pure motive for his God. Why would you condemn the said zealot and his reasoning, but yet apply that same reasoning to excuse others who harm people by falsifying accounts, cheating and defrauding, also in the name of their God?

This is not some minor infraction of some technical or procedural law we are dealing with here. It's criminal. Once we start excusing or justifying what people do and the harm that society suffers in the name of faith, we start walking down this very dangerous, very slippery slope.

Support the accused as friends, people or fellow Christians who have gone astray if you must. But don't ever mitigate or excuse what they did because (they say) they did it in the name of God.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) is considering whether it is possible to take further steps in the City Harvest case and once they decide, they will announce next week, Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Saturday (Apr 8). "The matter is not over yet," he said.

Speaking to the media a day after the jail terms of six City Harvest Church leaders were more or less halved following an appeal, he said the AGC believed that the sentences given out earlier at a lower court should have been higher, including the eight-year sentence for church founder Kong Hee. The six had been found guilty of misappropriating S$50 million of church funds.

Mr Shanmugam said of the AGC: “They told the Government they were appealing and they gave their reasons – and why the sentence was low. And the Government believed that the original sentences were too low as well."

He noted that the High Court disagreed with the AGC and that two judges looking at the appeal said directors are not agents and therefore submitted a lower charge of Criminal Breach of Trust, that resulted in a reduced sentence.

“Now from the Government's point of view, this legal reasoning has serious implications, including corruption cases. We will have to consider, as a matter of policy, what other steps to take because we cannot relax our stand on that ... so I have asked AGC for advice whether we need to do anything," Mr Shanmugam said.

Acknowledging that there are differing views on the judgment, he said: “Judgments can be discussed, criticised. People have the right to have their views on the judgment. But I think we should be careful about abusing the judges personally, or suggesting improper ulterior motives for judgments … And from a Government’s point of view, if we disagree then we always consider what we do. If necessary, we will legislate through Parliament.”

He said he noted the High Court’s comments on the way the case was conducted by the prosecution and has asked the new Attorney-General and Deputy Attorneys-General to look into this.

“It may take time, but we have good people at the top, and they should be able to deal with it," he said.

 "The matter is not over yet," he reiterated.


Today (10/4/2017), the prosecution in the City Harvest Church (CHC) case has filed a Criminal Reference to the Court of Appeal.

The statement added: "If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the Prosecution's submissions, the Prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal exercises its powers under section 397(5) to reinstate the appellants' original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given.
The prosecution in the City Harvest Church (CHC) case has filed a Criminal Reference today to the Court of Appeal. - See more at: