SINGAPORE - Taxi drivers will get at least $300 a month in additional rental relief from cab operators in the first half of next year, as the sector continues to be hit by low demand caused by the pandemic.
Including the separate payouts that the Government has announced, they will receive a total of almost $5,000 from January to June, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor on Friday (Dec 18).
Explaining the continued aid for the sector, Dr Khor said: "Tourism activities remain muted... and many employees are still continuing to work from home. In fact, the commuting pattern has actually changed with shorter trips and therefore lower fares."
Dr Khor was speaking after a visit to the ComfortDelGro office in Braddell Road.
ComfortDelGro Taxi chief executive Ang Wei Neng noted that while passenger numbers had grown to about 70 per cent of pre-Covid levels, the lower fares meant that drivers were earning less per trip.
He said he hoped that the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as the gradual reopening of the economy and borders, would help to boost the prospects of drivers.
Separately, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) this week announced that drivers of private-hire cars and taxis will get $600 a month from January to March next year, up from the $300 monthly they were initially set to receive. In addition, the drivers will also get $450 from April to June.
The increased payouts by the Government are meant to help cushion the impact of the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) ending. The scheme had provided self-employed people with three quarterly cash payouts of $3,000 each.
Drivers had been able to use Sirs, as well as the P2P Special Relief Fund, to boost their earnings.
Dr Khor said on Friday that the Government has disbursed about $120 million in payouts through the Special Relief Fund to about 40,000 taxi and private-hire car drivers as of the end of November.
She assured drivers that all of the Government's assistance will be passed on to them, and that the LTA will conduct checks to ensure that.
When asked if private-hire car operators such as Grab and Gojek would be introducing additional rental relief similar to that offered by taxi operators, Dr Khor said: "We continue to work together with the operators to encourage them to continue to support the private-hire car drivers in whatever way they can."
Labour MP Yeo Wan Ling, who is also a director at the National Trades Union Congress, said it has been meeting private-hire operators to let them know about the initiatives by taxi operators.
She noted that the union has also worked with private-hire platforms on upskilling drivers and equipping them with expertise to make the transition to other industries.
Ride-hailing operator Grab said in response to queries that its approach would "continue to evolve with the situation". It said it had been focusing on maximising earning opportunities for its drivers.
The Straits Times understands that ride-hailing firm Gojek has no plans to introduce additional payouts similar to that of taxi operators. But a spokesman said the firm remains committed to helping drivers through various incentive schemes and benefits.
Meanwhile, cabbies said they are grateful for the additional help by taxi operators.
ComfortDelGro taxi driver Frankie Chew, 52, acknowledged that the total subsidies which drivers received will be lower without Sirs.
But Mr Chew, who is the sole breadwinner for his family of four, is optimistic about the future. He said: "Singapore is already opening up and people are coming out.
"The most difficult challenge (during the circuit breaker period) has already passed, so we will definitely be able to pull through."