For once, I managed to arrive early enough for an event this week. This week was jam packed with events – the Open Room event on Monday, the Cisco launch on Tuesday and now, the Podfire Launch on Wednesday!

DSC04812 DSC04817 DSC04818

Podfire is the baby of Miccheng, whose aim is to provide turn key solutions for podcasts and vidcasts. He’s just gotten Tech65 and the Geek Goddess show into his portfolio and is looking to provide better solutions for others who are interested in doing the same.

And like every other glamour event, here’s the who’s who (in the likes of Singapore Tatler).

DSC04791 DSC04792 DSC04793 DSC04795 DSC04796 DSC04797 DSC04799 DSC04800 DSC04801 DSC04807 DSC04808 DSC04809 DSC04814 DSC04816 DSC04827 DSC04830

We had the usual suspects present at the event – and because I do not know who wants to remain anonymous and who doesn’t, here’s a rough list in no particular order, of who’s there (at least from the photos): Bernard Leong, Derrick (sorry, I didn’t get your URL), Arzhou, Ren Hao (sorry, I also didn’t get your URL), Adam (yours too, if you blog), Uzyn, Nadnut, DK, Andrew Peters (erm, which URL should I use?), Jairus (sorry, I also didn’t get your URL), Claudia , Nicole, Mintea, Daphne Maia, Sabrina, Tian Hong, and Charlene (she doesn’t blog =P) just to name a few. Of course, Miccheng was there too since this event is his baby. ;)

I thought the event was rather good because (after Bernard Leong lowered our expectations in the background) sufficient skills were seen in the post production result of what they screened during the launch event. One comment though – the mic (microphone, not miccheng) might have to be adjusted (tweak, re-positioned, etc.) to give a balance in the vidcast. A few of us thought the Geek Goddess sounded 1 octave higher. Haha…

DSC04825 DSC04829

The food was ok. French fries, potato wedges, onion rings and spring rolls were served. However, I guess the highlight of the day was Danny’s customized drinks for the girls! Darn, I didn’t even get to taste any. =( Maybe… not friend enough =(

DSC04833

Looks nice right?! Too bad I didn’t get to try it. Shucks. =(

As with any event, there was lots and lots of interacting and mixing around. People around us are beginning to wake up to social media – in the good sense I hope. Maybe I’ll write something on it one day. =)

Following this wonderful event, we headed to our next destination – The Pump Room, which was quite a let down (yes, this form of social media do bring brands down – but I guess bloggers don’t lambast for the sake of bringing anything or anyone down; it’s just honest-to-honest views, just like what yebber hopes to bring about).

Stay tuned for Part 2! =) Meanwhile, Happy Labour Day! =)

Shortest entry ever? Anyway, here’s a quick one so that everyone will know. If you are driving through the gantry after Dairy Farm Road on the BKE towards PIE, then you’d have to start digging deeper into your pockets… because you’d have to start paying $0.50 more if you travel through the gantry from 7:30am-8:00am. The strangest thing about the report was that "the LTA did not say why it is raising the 7:30am-8:00am slot for the lone BKE gantry, but ERP rates are usually raised when average traffic speeds fall below the optimal 45kmh to 60kmh range for expressways".

In addition, it was reported that "a new interpretation of ‘optimal speed’ will take effect" and "instead of taking average speeds as a criterion for ERP rate changes, a more stringent method that ensures than 85 per cent of road users experience the optimal speed range will be applied". It was concluded that "in effect, the two new meaures mean the likelihood of more aggressive rate increases".

I am beginning if LTA is trying to hasten the process of ROI. Either that, or they are trying to show that ERP really works – by raising the ERP charges so high that drivers will have no choice but not to drive.

IT will cost motorists $1.50 to use the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) between 7.30am and 8am on weekdays from next Monday – up from $1 now.

The electronic road-pricing (ERP) gantry on the BKE between Dairy Farm Road and the Pan-Island Expressway is the only one being tweaked by the Land Transport Authority in its latest review of ERP rates.

The rates at all other gantries remain unchanged – until the next review in late-May, just before the June school holidays.

ERP rates are reviewed once every quarter as welll as just before school holidays. Prices are usually lowered for the latter.

The LTA did not say why it is raising the 7.30am-8am slot for the lone BKE gantry, but ERP rates are usually raised when average traffic speeds fall below the optimal 45kmh to 60kmh range for expressways.

The idea is to spread out demand so as to avoid congestion and achieve better traffic flow overall.

The fact that rates at all other gantries remain unchanged indicate that traffic flow at all ERP-controlled roads has not improved or deteriorated significantly in the last three months.

Miniscule adjustments, however, will be a thing of the past from July, when a new set of criteria for rate movements kick in.

As part of a slew of measures to control congestion and persuade more people to take public transport, ERP increments will be at least $1 each time – double the 50-cent jumps now.

That’s not all. A new interpretation of ‘optimal speed’ will take effect. Instead of taking average speeds as a criterion for ERP rate changes, a more stringent method that ensures than 85 per cent of road users experience the optimal speed range will be applied.

In effect, the two new meaures mean the likelihood of more aggressive rate increases.

They will apply in the CBD and Orchard area from July; and at most other ERP-controlled roads from November.

The remaining handful of outlying gantries will be affected from February next year.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 29th April 2008 dated 28th April 2008

Yes, I find myself yet again, in another unique position of having both the Starhub MaxMobile service as well as the M1 Broadband service running from the same computer. Not at the same time of course, since the active connection can only come from either source. However, because my laptop has an internal SIM card slot and I have the M1 Broadband dongle as well, I save the trouble of having to replace SIM cards when I want to test either connection.

Prior to connecting my Starhub MaxMobile for the first time, I experience bad connection problems with my M1 Broadband. Not only was the connection slow, but the graphics seemed distorted as well. Initially, I thought I needed a new driver for the display, but in an unusual twist of events, I realised that it was a graphic degradation due to slow downstream speed. Of course, it’s easy to push the blame to M1.

To me, 99.98% coverage means nothing to me if I am having problems getting a connection. To me, it was 0% coverage. Probability doesn’t work here. It’s not as if I am getting 99.98% uptime from my 0% coverage location. Don’t you just hate statistics?

So, here’s the golden question. Which is the better choice? To some people, it might be even a platinum question, but I digress.

One of the better ways to compare is to do a speed test – upload/download and ping from a particular site. On 29th April 2008 at 19:17, this test was done – but it seemed like a particularly bad day for testing because all the speeds were down – way down from being optimal. Perhaps it’s the feng shui.

Date: 29th April 2008

Time: From 19:17

  Download Upload
M1 Broadband 395 kbps 263 kbps
Starhub MaxMobile 682 kbps 182 kbps
Wireless@SG 4702 kbps 473 kbps*

*The upload for Wireless@SG was not successfully completed on multiple tries.

There’s a caveat to this test though. The M1 Broadband is subscribed under the lowest band, which is up to 1.8 Mpbs while Starhub’s MaxMobile is under the 7.2 Mbps plan – since they only have a single plan. For a rare moment, Wireless@SG outperformed both mobile broadband services. Of course, I didn’t mention about frequent dropping of connections.

However, it is also known that different areas have difference coverage. For me, the place where I spend 10 hours a day at has 0% coverage from M1 Broadband, and barely GPRS speed at home; while Starhub MaxMobile provided better coverage in the day and night for me. For me, it’s quite a clear cut choice.

One thing’s for sure. Ever since M1 went unlimited with their M1 Broadband, it was all down the drain.

It’s either it’s been such a hush-hush… or people just don’t seem to bother anyway. After all, the raise in fuel prices is beyond any consumer’s control. For all we know, it might jolly well cost a few dollars more the next day!

Indeed, it’s beginning to be so expensive to drive a car nowadays it’s better to… take public transport? Hey, but public transport cost will soon rise and basically there’s no running away. However, if you think it stops there, then you may be in for a surprise. Fuel price hike affects all industries that indirectly makes use of fuel. So, as long as the goods or services that you are receiving is "mobile" in some sense, you will be affected by the fuel price hike.

What a gloomy day.

Pump prices up across all brands

Three other oil companies have jumped on the bandwagon, after Caltex’s move

By Christopher Tan

THE OTHER oil companies have all followed Caltex’s move to raise pump prices here. ExxonMobil, Singapore Petroleum Co and Shell on Wednesday upped petrol prices by three cents a litre and diesel by five cents.

Their increases, within hours of each other, came a day after Caltex revised prices upwards. With the changes, a litre of 92, 95 and 98-octane petrol is $2.083, $2.116 and $2.190 before discount, while diesel is $1.663. Shell’s V-Power is $2.309, while Caltex’s Platinum is $2.316.

The latest pump price adjustment is the 10th consecutive increase since July last year – 11th if the GST-triggered increase on July 1, 2007 were to be included. Singapore’s goods & services tax was raised from 5 to 7 per cent last July.

The relentless increase in pump prices is just one of several price spirals Singapore residents are facing. The country’s inflation rate, at 6.7 per cent in March, is at the highest level in almost three decades. Some analysts are predicting it would reach 7 per cent this year, fuelled by high food and oil prices.

Likewise, crude oil prices are trading at record levels. In New York trading on Tuesday, oil hit US$119.90 (S$160) as the American currency weakened against the euro. This prompted investors to pick up more commodities – including oil – as an inflation hedge.

Some observers have questioned why pump prices here are not softening on the back of the strengthening Singapore dollar. The local currency is trading at an all-time high of $1.35 per US dollar.

Meanwhile, the escalation in fuel prices is costing motorists dearly. Drivers will now incur nearly $1,000 more in fuel a year than in January 2007, when a litre of petrol was $1.50. Station discounts, at 19 per cent back then, have dwindled to 5 per cent.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 29th April 2008 dated 23rd April 2008

Got this error this morning while loading straitstimes.com – is it another overloading of the website? Or has it got anything to do with my browser?

image

The perils of using Internet nowadays – I don’t know if there’s a problem with the site or if my computer has been infected with another unidentified virus/trojan/horsey/whatever.

Got the invite via DK and Ridz from Brian of Ogilvy to the Open Room event. Apparently, they just acquired the new wing as part of an extension of their existing premises and advertisers, marketing professionals and bloggers were invited to this Blogger Social event. I thought it was a very kind gesture on the part of Brian and his team because bloggers were always seen in the bad light – that they will give unsolicited comments on products or slamming a product’s features. However, this can’t be further from the truth and I thank Brian and his team for providing an opportunity for bloggers to interact with the marketing professionals. The event was held at… the Open Room, which is on Level 3 of the Ogilvy Center, just back to back with SGX and opposite the Lau Pat Sat.

DSC04769

And in case you were lost…

DSC04771_edited

You can always call for assistance. Disclaimer: I have no idea whose number this is. Just… don’t spam it, ok? =) On second thoughts, I’d be a responsible blogger and mask the number. =)

DSC04766

It’s unlikely that you’ll miss this screaming red wall with the logo artistically etched onto the wall. Of course, from here, it’s hard not to notice the registration counter…

DSC04763

And the goodie bags that beckon behind. =)

This event was meant for advertisers and marketing professionals to interact with the bloggers – and indeed it was. I was so busy interacting with people that I actually didn’t manage to take any photos of the exhibits. From what I recalled, there was a range of Canon Ixus cameras as well as the Canon HF10 and FS100 Camcorders; not forgetting their DSLR, the Canon EOS 40D. Yes, I am eyeing on reviewing that model because I am on the brink of getting a DSLR.

There’s also the Nokia N95, which I thought was a babe! I heard it comes with build in GPS, but I didn’t know that I could actually attach it to a TV to play games! I tried to play some games on it… but the screen was too big and I got a little too giddy. =( However, I am still a Nokia supporter! That’s probably why they are not letting me review any of their phones. =(

From a distance, I saw an oversize iPod, but before I could take a photo of it, it was gone! =( Well, it was quite a wasted chance for me to get it’s photo up here. Next time perhaps…

And here’s the people photos!

DSC04753

The prince and the princesses

DSC04755

3 Sexy ladies! =)

DSC04756

The loot left unattended…

DSC04757     

The one-glass-turn-red Plaktoz

DSC04758

DK acting shy

And yes, that’s about as many photos as I can get. It was really a networking session for me so there’s less of camwhoring today. =P

Oh… there was a goodie bag for all who attended today’s event. Nice red bag! Reminds me of rednano… =P

DSC04781

Tadah! This is the much coveted goodie bag that was seen at the registration table. =) It’s really quite a packful inside!

DSC04772 DSC04773 DSC04774 DSC04775 DSC04777 DSC04778 DSC04780 DSC04779

That’s quite a fair bit of goodies we see here. There’s the PSP soft case holder (it’s really, really nice to feel – like soft wool), there’s a 1GB thumbdrive that’s kindly provided by Nokia n-gage, the Yahoo!Answer notepad – good for writing notes for your lectures, the muvee CD – which is a software that can do amazing movie stuffs and MTVs – you should try it, the PlayStation keychain – which also doubles up as a memory stick holder – w00t!, and other memorabilia from Yahoo!, SecureItLive! and n-gage. Lastly, of course, there’s my name tag. =)

And there’s something missing from these images! The last gift…

Read the rest of this entry »

After the COI findings were announced, the big question still lingers in everyone’s mind – where is Mas Selamat? Doesn’t matter (actually in a certain sense it does, but let’s all assume that it doesn’t) how he managed to find all the loopholes to get out. What’s more important is… is he receiving help from some people. Is he hiding somewhere? Is he preparing for a come back? Is he preparing for sweet revenge? Is he going to pay back double of what he didn’t manage to do – bombing some port and some other ports at the same time? Is he planning some collaborative terrorism? (Actually, I secretly suspect that everyone’s thinking why DPM Wong isn’t fired, but that’s not a politically correct thing to say because I have no statistics and NRIC numbers of people who think of it that way).

Well, no one has the answer (no, not even smarties).

I’m sure the effort is still on going to find him – making use of whatever intelligence (as in intel, not the IQ type) there is to find him. However, even as the government starts to streamline search efforts, all they got was, unintentionally, a lot of illegal immigrants and vices, which loosely translates to more work for the police and the ICA.

Frankly, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. If you have not tried it before, try searching for a grain of salt in your sugar mug – that’s how difficult it is. What’s worse is if he has friends to the likes of Dr Woffles Wu (in all due respect because I think he’s one famous plastic surgeon in Singapore) who can probably give him a new face and a new identity. He’d probably need to have an orthopaedic specialist to fix that leg of his to give him the perfect face off. No one will ever recognise him and if he keep out of trouble until his next attack – it’d be the perfect plan.

If he’s really receiving help, I don’t think the authorities will stand a good chance of finding him – not that they will never be able to find him, but it’s just a slimmer chance. Do I think efforts should be stepped down? Well, as much as it makes economic sense to stand down, I think it’s good for them to continue – but like DPM Wong and whoever that’s inside said – it should be streamlined. At least it’d keep him on his toes.

The last thing that we can all hope for is for someone to expose him – or in Hokkien – bao2 dou1. However, given the group’s unity, it’s highly improbable that that will ever happen. So I guess it’s back to our daily lives for many of us, while this incident fades into obscurity (and no, don’t even harp on DPM Wong stepping down).

Do not even think of helping or harbouring Singapore’s most wanted man, Mas Selamat Kastari.

Anyone caught aiding him will find himself in serious trouble with the law.

A Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman told The Sunday Times that the person will face imprisonment for life, or a jail term which may extend to 15 years, and will also be liable to a fine.

Aiding the escape of, or harbouring, a prisoner is a breach of Section 130 of the Penal Code.

In Parliament last Monday, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng gave a detailed account of how Mas Selamat was likely to have escaped from the Whitley Road Detention Centre on Feb 27.

He noted that even as the authorities confirmed that no one helped the Jemaah Islamiah leader break out from the centre, there is a possibility that he could have secured help after his escape.

Said Mr Wong: ‘While there is no intelligence to confirm this, the possibility cannot be dismissed and is indeed a scenario pursued by the Internal Security Department (ISD) even now.’

The question that has not ceased being asked: So where is Mas Selamat now?

Terrorism experts The Sunday Times spoke to said that the 47-year-old fugitive could well be getting help now to evade arrest.

‘The chances are high that someone is harbouring him,’ said Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of Singapore’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

‘That is why the Government must repeatedly announce the severity of harbouring a person of Mas Selamat’s notoriety.’

The group most likely to assist him, experts say, are people who are sympathetic towards his situation.

If help is indeed being given, it is also more likely to come from a group than a lone person, they speculated.

Mr Saifullah Khan, research analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), added that harbouring a man of Mas Selamat’s profile is tough, especially in an HDB flat, since neighbours’ suspicions would be easily roused.

‘In flats, people can see and hear what is going on. But if a group of people living in the same area work together, it’ll be easier to harbour such a man,’ he said.

If harboured in a secluded spot with low human traffic, Mas Selamat could possibly go undetected for ‘an indefinite period’, experts said.

Dr John Harrison, an assistant professor at RSIS, said: ‘He would keep a low profile, careful not to draw unwanted attention to the flat. Others will then feed him food and information.’

If indeed harboured, the experts speculate that Mas Selamat would lie low till ‘things die down’ and then make his escape out of the country.

Others, however, believe it is unlikely he is holed up in a flat or building. Rather, they believe he is still roaming Singapore’s forested areas.

One survival expert, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tamilselvam, said that someone with Mas Selamat’s jungle skills could easily survive in Singapore’s forests for up to two years.

Mr Tamilselvam, 57, who used to be an instructor to the Singapore Armed Forces commandos and conducted jungle survival training for soldiers, said that iguanas, squirrels and edible plants are available for food.

Also, items like groundsheets and water bottles, which are sometimes left behind by soldiers during training, could be hoarded by the fugitive and come in handy.

Mas Selamat, who reportedly received military training in Afghanistan, would also be careful to travel only in the day to prevent sustaining injuries at night.

Said Mr Tamilselvam: ‘It is most important that he doesn’t injure himself. If he needs medication, things could get complicated.’

But Dr Gunaratna thinks it unlikely that Mas Selamat is still hiding in the forests.

Even with his jungle expertise, he thinks that it is hard for Mas Selamat to survive in a jungle for long since he is used to operating in an urban environment.

Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Ministry said that members of Mas Selamat’s family have been interviewed by the police and ISD.

It also reiterated that targeted searches based on intelligence and leads in forested areas are still ongoing.

‘We will continue our search for Mas Selamat for as long as it takes until he is apprehended,’ said a spokesman.

It added that tightened security at coastlines and checkpoints will continue to deny him any chance of fleeing the country.

Experts, too, felt that the fugitive is still somewhere in Singapore.

But on his possible future movements, International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones said: ‘If he could find a way to get out of Singapore, then Indonesia would probably be his first choice.

‘There, he has friends and contact, a network that can hide him, and knowledge of the area.’

mavistoh@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th April 2008

Fruits can make good medicine at times, but it can also make good poison – sometimes unintentionally. A few people have been reportedly dying from eating star fruits – they mystery of which was solved soon. You see, star fruits contain a kind of neurotoxin that is harmful to the body. For most people, this toxin is filtered away by the kidneys. However, for people who are dysfunctional kidneys, or kidney problems, the toxin gets to travel around the body and be "absorbed", resulting in damage.

It was also reported that star fruits may be harmful to people who are suffering from heart problems and these people are advised against consuming such fruits. So, if you are suffering from any ailments that may be deadly, do contact your doctor for advice.

How much poison are you eating today?

KUALA LUMPUR- ALL it takes is one fruit or 100ml of its juice and the ordinarily harmless star fruit becomes poison in a matter of hours for kidney patients.

University Malaya Medical Centre consultant nephrologist Prof Dr Tan Si Yen said this was what had happened to Tang Gon Seang in China.

The 66-year-old, who has been suffering from a kidney ailment, was in Shenzhen visiting his son when fell into a coma on March 29 after eating star fruits.

‘Star fruits contain a neurotoxin which is not present in other fruits. It affects the brain and nerves. In healthy persons, the kidneys filter it out. In kidney patients, it cannot be removed and worsens their condition,’ he said.

More than 10 other patients in the hospital suffered the same condition after consuming star fruits. Two of them died.

After discovering the star fruit connection, Mr Tang has been undergoing dialysis.

His brother-in-law Teoh Thian Lye, 55, confirmed that Mr Tang had been on medication for kidney problems for three years.

The family sought the help of MCA Public Complaints and Services Department head Datuk Michael Chong to transfer Mr Tang back to Malaysia as the family could not afford the hospital bill of RM1,000 (S$430)-RM2,000 a day in intensive care.

According to Dr Tan, there was little awareness of this relatively new discovery and no local cases yet.

‘The public must be alert to reactions to star fruit. Look out for initial symptoms including hiccups, numbness and weakness, and neurological symptoms including confusion, agitation and epileptic fits,’ he said.

‘The risk of death is high,’ he added. — THE STAR/ANN

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 27th April 2008 dated 23rd April 2008

Apparently the Casinos here will be the first places in Singapore to break the “No Smoking in Buildings” law. Legally. If everything goes through, this means that NEA will give the Casinos the permission to have smoking areas in its premises – and we are not talking about “smoking rooms”. Going by any other standards, as large as entire floors of the Casino will be given “smoking status” while presumably other floors will be non-smoking areas.

I am not sure if this will be the start of the law breaking up as whether other businesses will start applying for such “extraordinary permissions”; and if it does happen, then we will start seeing the disintegration of what some people fought for – a smoke free environment. I have already seen people smoking at traffic junctions, overhead bridges and outside MRT stations, oblivious to the people around them choking and coughing. I am just wondering if this is the beginning of the end.

I mean, they have their smoking rights, but non-smokers have their rights to better air and cancer-free lungs. Talking about rights will never see an end in Singapore.

CASINOS here will be one of the last holdouts for smokers who want to light up indoors, when they start operating from the end of next year.

The Government has decided to leave gaming halls out of a nationwide ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, which is being rolled out in the next few years.

But the two integrated resorts (IR) will be required to draw up ‘house rules’ to protect non-smokers.

This is likely to mean providing separate smoking and non-smoking gaming areas, as is the case in Australia.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will give its input in the making of the house rules, its spokesman told The Straits Times.

NEA would not say if there would be a cap on the amount of space to be set aside for smokers. The no-smoking rule will, however, apply in all other parts of the IRs, including restaurants and bars.

The reprieve is good news for casino operators – as many as 85 per cent of gamblers tend to be smokers as well, according to some industry estimates.

Gambling havens like Macau do not have rules regarding smoking, though some casinos provide non-smoking gaming floors.

Others are stricter. Just three days ago in the United States, Atlantic City finally pushed through legislation to ban smoking in its 11 casinos from October, though some casino operators are fighting back.

The industry claims such a move could cost it 20 per cent of revenue and put up to 3,400 people out of jobs.

The decision to exclude casinos here from the indoor smoking ban comes after almost a year of talks between NEA and the IRs, The Straits Times understands.

But the IR operators are keeping their cards close to their chests with regard to their plans on house rules.

A spokesman for Resorts World at Sentosa would say only that it has made plans to separate its smoking and non-smoking gaming areas.

‘Our casino would be designed in a way that guests could access smoking areas that are both comfortable and convenient,’ he added.

Its competitor, Marina Bay Sands, also declined to elaborate on its plans.

But one industry veteran, Mr Ramachandar Siva, who ran the casino in Genting Highlands in Malaysia for 10 years, said one option would be to create a ‘buffer zone’.

In 1995, when Genting hived off a third of its gaming area for non-smokers, a restaurant separated the two zones, he said.

Glass walls or partitions could also be used, said Mr Ramachandar, now the head of vocational casino school International Club Games Training Centre.

Smoking restrictions here have been extended gradually since 1970. Lighting up is now banned in all air-conditioned buildings, including offices and malls. Nightspots have stubbed it out too, except in specially ventilated smoking rooms, and al-fresco outlets restrict smoking to 20 per cent of the floor space.

Non-air-conditioned workplaces and public areas, including playgrounds, markets and multi-storey carparks, go smoke-free in January.

The exception being granted to casinos has prompted some to question the double standards.

Mr Dennis Foo, chief executive officer of St James Power Station, said that it gave casinos an ‘upper hand’, especially if gaming floors had lounges or bars serving food and alcohol.

jermync@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 26th April 2008

Yes, despite all the brouhaha, despite all the threats to ever stop taking taxis in their whole lives, Singaporeans have succumbed to the fare hikes of the cabs and have resumed taking taxis as their daily means of transport. I suspected something was wrong when many taxi drivers where choosing locations when a group us were trying to flag a cab because our car broke down. My suspicions got aroused when a taxi driver waved me off like some fly. Then all these are confirmed in today’s article in the papers.

So now, all the taxi drivers can afford to be arrogant again and pick and choose passengers. I wonder when is the next time cabbies complain again. In fact, I even hear some rivers complaining that it’s still not enough and thay want more hikes! Gee… However, I wonder even more on when the taxi companies are going to raise the taxi rental fees to create that void that can only be filled by more of the commuter’s wallet.

Oh wait! The increase fuel cost may just create that void!

Oh happy day! (oh happy day!) Oh happy day! (oh happy day….) *suck thumb*

THE chorus of complaints that came from the taxi industry after fares were raised in December last year seems to have died down.

Although some customers initially stayed away from taxis, there has been a turnaround, and with it fears that the earnings of cabbies would drop seem to have eased, according to surveys done by the country’s two biggest taxi companies.

ComfortDelgro, the largest taxi operator here with about 15,000 of the country’s 24,000 taxis, saw a 16 per cent increase in takings for a cabby’s full day of work.

For a full-day shift, cabbies are earning $187.92, up from $162 before the fare revision, after deducting the cost of fuel and renting the cab.

SMRT, which has about 3,000 cabs on the road, said cabbies saw a 20 per cent increase in gross income in the first quarter of this year, compared with the last quarter of last year.

The data came from a survey of about 300 taxi drivers.

In a bid to alleviate a taxi shortage and raise the drivers’ earnings, the six taxi companies increased their starting metered fare from $2.50 to $2.80 in December.

The meter was also adjusted to tick faster, with 20 cents charged for every 385m up to 10km travelled, instead of 10 cents for every 210m.

However, commuters were most peeved by a revised peak-hour surcharge which was tweaked from a flat $2 to 35 per cent of the metered fare. The surcharge for picking up passengers in the city centre also went up from $1 to $3.

After first avoiding taxis in favour of public transport, more commuters seem to be going back to them.

The average daily ridership for taxis for January was 855,000 while February’s went up to 934,000.

Last year, the average daily ridership was 945,000.

Said 55-year-old cabby Haniff Mahbob, who has been on the job for 20 years: ‘After fares went up, we had few customers. But luckily the new fares offset our lost business. Now, business is definitely picking up. I’m sure more drivers have bigger smiles on their faces.’

Call bookings are also on the rise this year, according to ComfortDelgro.

The company will also soon offer a service which allows passengers to book a cab by sending an SMS message with their postal code and pick-up location.

The Taxi Operators’ Associations, which represents drivers’ associations of five of the six taxi companies, said: ‘The situation seems to have stabilised and improved, but we are still quite concerned that rising fuel cost may eat into our drivers’ income.’

Oil prices hit a record US$117.50 (S$160) a barrel this week.

On average, taxi drivers on a full-day shift spend close to $40 on diesel and about $90 on cab rental.

mariaa@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 25th April 2008