Without doubt again, the greatest policy change that affect both the taxi commuters and drivers this year has been the recent taxi fare hike. The last fare revision was 4 years ago. Nobody like price increases in any aspect but in a capitalist economy, price increases is inevitable. With the fare hike, my income has gone up by about $20 per 12 hours shift or about $1.50 per hour. This small additional income helps me to defray the increased cost of fuel that I've been paying for the last 4 years. In 2007, I paid 85 cents for a litre of fuel, now I pay $1.22cents a litre, an increase of about 30 percent. I think the recent fare hike is fair from a taxi driver point of view. The sad side of the fare hike is that taxi ridership had gone down quite a bit. Before the fare hike, most taxi stands in the city were packed with taxi commuters. Now, its the reverse. Empty taxies with few takers lined the all taxi stands. I hope in the coming new year, taxi commuters will get used to the new fare structure and come back to take taxi again and soon. If not, I might have to look for another job. Maybe I'll become a security guard. In Singapore, this is the only kind of job available for old man like me. Sigh!
Generally 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 also, starring in envy and admiration at those beautiful bungalows in exclusive private estates after off-loading my passengers there. But there are also a few things I could never come to terms with as a taxi driver, like traffic and accidents and all the abuses and assaults that is so regularly heaped on Singapore's cabbies. We, taxi drivers are easy prey to robbers, drunkards and fare cheats. Also in the eyes of the public, taxi drivers are at the lowest step of the social status ladders, to be bossed around and treated with contempt. Taxi drivers in every countries face similar hardships and problems. It has always being this way since the invent of automobile and will not change any time soon. In Singapore, the only possible change I envisage is the natural replacement of the older sixties and seventies taxi uncles with younger and better educated drivers. Hopefully, this would improve taxi services in general and public perspective of taxi drivers in particular.
In 2011, 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 course of my work in the last 365 days. I think I should mention these two contrasting emotions here. 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.
Now, the saddest moment happen just two days ago. It has nothing to do with grieving of death, heartache of broken relationship or nightmare of financial disaster. It could be considered a trivial matter. It concerns the court case of the TV host and actress, Quan Yifeng. Most Singaporean know how she got into trouble with the law. For the benefit of my overseas readers, let me briefly say that she had an altercation with a taxi driver last year. She was charged in court not for a criminal offence but for mischief only. With her wealth, celebrity status, and an influential lawyer, who came out with a strong mitigation plea, she was acquitted and placed on probation. She got this lenient sentence because in Singapore we have two sets of laws - one for the rich and the other for the poor. A poor man is sentenced to 2 years in jail for stealing $2 to buy food, while Mdm Quan, who injured the taxi driver and damaged his taxi got only a probation. She used her wealth to "buy" herself out of trouble with the law. This is not fair and it makes me very sad that it happens in Singapore. Justice must not only be seem but done in open court.
The impression I got from reading the thousands of comments in Yahoo's forum on this case, is that justice in Singapore is perverted with double standard favouring the rich and powerful. The last thing I want in Singapore is a "kangaroo" court. The case of Quan Yifeng seem to points to that direction and is a clear travesty of justice. I've no confidence in the judiciary of Singapore and this is my saddest realisation in 2011.
When I listened to this video and watched the background scenery my soul grew weary and disappointed with humankind. We have failed to be good stewards of the world we were entrusted to look after. In our greed and selfishness we have polluted our earth that in another generation or two it may just become unlivable. It will be a powerful rendition of the traditional Auld Lang Syne that make you want to stay in the old year. Listen and enjoy.