Budget debate: More than $655 million given out to taxi and private-hire car drivers

The Government has earmarked another $116 million to be paid out under the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund between March and June. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - More than $655 million in relief payouts have been given to over 50,000 taxi and private-hire drivers as at February, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor on Friday (March 5).

She added that the Government has earmarked another $116 million to be paid out under the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF) between March and June, and will assess if further support is needed.

The $655 million already given out consists of more than $500 million to over 57,000 drivers under the self-employed person income relief scheme, and more than $155 million in relief payouts to over 50,000 drivers through the special relief fund for the industry and the CDRF, she said during the debate on her ministry's budget.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC) asked if the Government would consider capping the number of private-hire car drivers, which have led to a potential oversupply of ride-hire vehicles.

Mr Ang, who is the chief executive of ComfortDelGro taxi, had also expressed his concerns about young, often part-time, drivers in the sector, who could compete with older drivers who depend on driving as their livelihoods.

He asked if it was wise for Singapore that so many young people are pursuing driving as a career.

"Today, there are less than 16,000 taxis but there are close to 50,000 private-hire cars. In totality, there are 2.4 times point-to-point vehicles today as compared to eight years ago," he said.

"Do we really need so many point-to-point vehicles and drivers in Singapore?"

Responding, Dr Khor said there are no plans to cap the number of private-hire drivers, with the number of registered private-hire cars already having dropped by 12 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

Those who are below 30 with tertiary education make up less than three per cent of private-hire car licence holders, she noted.

With the Land Transport Authority last year raising the minimum age for new private-hire car driver's vocational licence applicants to 30 years old - to bring it in line with the minimum age to obtain a taxi driver's vocational licence - there will also be no new young drivers in their twenties, she said.

Providing an update to the ongoing vaccination of drivers, Dr Khor said more than half of 50,000 active taxi and private-hire car drivers have already booked their vaccination appointments.

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