Posts Tagged ‘transport’

“Taxis in Singapore are already amongst the cheapest in the world”

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Singapore cabbies dream of upturn

Some drivers have seen a fall in revenue of around 40% from last year

A decade ago, James Yang upgraded his taxi to a seven-seater maxi cab to target Singapore’s corporate sector.
And for a while it worked out well, “bringing in more money”, he says.

“Travel agents asked me to pick up their clients, or I did big corporate events.

“But now, companies are spending less on taxis. My revenue has fallen almost 90% since last year.”

So recently, Mr Yang has been scouting for passengers on the streets.

Unaffordable luxury

Taxis in Singapore are already amongst the cheapest in the world, with a minimum charge less than $2 (£1.20).
They have been a popular form of public transport for everyone from builders to executives. But in the recession, it is the luxury that they cannot afford.

“People are more cautious. They prefer to get up early and take public transport instead of taxis,” says Mr Yang.

“And to make things harder, they tend not to hail my cab, assuming it would be more expensive, so I have to drive around even longer than an ordinary taxi to find a customer.”

Bouncing back

As long as people are reluctant to spend, business will remain tough for Mr Yang, though there are signs that the worst recession in Singapore’s history could be nearing its end.

The economy expanded at an annualised rate of 20.4% between April and June. It was the first quarterly expansion for a year, and the fastest growth for nearly six years. It is a huge bounce-back compared with the 12.7% contraction in the first quarter ending in March.

This is thanks to increased drug sales and construction activity, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Manufacturing is not a huge part of Singapore’s economy, but the island specialises in pharmaceuticals and high-end specialist manufacturing. Increased demand for flu vaccines helped an already recession-proof sector to expand.

Unsustainable recovery

While this is a huge relief for many Singaporeans, the government remains cautious.

Taking the pulse explained

The Ministry of Trade and Industry says the economic growth seen between April and June “may not be sustained”.
“The real economic indicators are still plunging,” says Roman Scott of Calamander Group.

Retail sales suffered their biggest drop since 1999 in April. They fell at an annual rate of 11.7%, after dropping 7.3% in March and 5.5% in February.

This is not surprising, as people are worried about losing their jobs.

The government revised up its first quarter unemployment rate to 3.3%. That is a jump from 2.5% in December.

“You can never have a real economic recovery when people are still getting fired,” Mr Scott adds.

“The economy was at the bottom so it had to bounce back. In this economic climate, any recovery looks huge because we saw a total collapse.”

The government still expects the economy to contract for the year. It now predicts the economy will shrink between 4% and 6% for 2009 as a whole, less than its earlier estimate of a contraction of between 6% and 9%.
Still not healed. And yet, Mr Scott says, it will take much longer for ordinary Singaporeans to feel the miracle recovery.

“Singapore was taken out of an intensive care unit a month ago, after so much stimulus medicine was given.”
“But it is not out of hospital. It can walk around and meet visitors, but you will have to wait until the end of the year for it to be discharged.”

(via BBC NEWS)

Random Musings about Beijing

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Recently just came back from a Beijing trip. Thought I would share some random musings about this historic modern city!

– There’s Channelnewsasia on TV

– The subway is underground and follows the major freeways or Ring roads
– The subway costs about 2 yuan (40 cents)
– The subway cards don’t require deposits – you tap your card to enter, but the card gets eaten when you exit.
– The subway line 10 was just completed last year. The trains are better designed compared to ours.
– According to our tour guide, there’s an underground city big enough to hold 1mil people

– Tianamen Square can hold 1 million people

– Why Beijing, a city, can have a real Apple Store complete with the genius bar, and Singapore, the country city can’t, completely baffles me

– Macs cost the same price when converted to SGD

– Singapore banned people from setting off fireworks. I bet the owner of the CCTV building that burnt down wished Beijing did too. It was completed, but not yet occupied.

– In order to make the city presentable during the Olympics, they build long walls along major streets to hide the ‘eyesore’ buildings and squatters.
– In Beijing, they slice Peking duck with their meat, not like here, where we eat the skin alone, and meat later.
– The Peking duck skin tasted waxy, and not crispy like ours
– Singapore has Orchard Road. Beijing has Wang Fu Jing ???
– Beijing slang incorporates some Manchurian phrases

– If you are on tour, be prepared to be brought to the lots of factories that are “Government-appointed” and “Quality Guaranteed”, where you’ll be herded into a small room and given a free talk. “No Obligations” they say, and than they’ll start promoting their products.

I guess the recession is affecting even Beijing, as the sales staff seem desperate to close a sale by all means, throwing more and more freebies each time you try to walk away. I jokingly suggested a 1-for-1 deal, to which the sales promotor replied “?????????“ (Buy 6 get 1 free), and then pulled me into a room and told me not to let the others know. So I had to go through with the deal. Damn, me and my jokes!

– The 3 most common drinks in China are: Coke, Sprite (???and WaHaHa ??? bottled water

– There’s a Raffles City by Capital Mall in Beijing

– American Capitalism has reached Beijing, in the guise of Walmart!

– Beijing cab drivers waiting in line for passengers were seen pushing their cabs to move up the line
– Beijing driving is weird. There’s like no ‘right-of-way’. Also a nightmare for pedestrians. You cross a zebra crossing, they horn. You cross when it’s a green man, they also horn. Maybe the horn means something …
– Beijing is a very bicycle friendly city. Every major street has bicycle lanes, separate from other motor vehicles. Even their overhead bridges are build with slopes on both sides so that one can wheel their bicycle up and down the bridge to cross the road.

– About 220k – 250k visit the Summer Palace daily. Most of the visitors are from various parts of China.

– It would seem that Beijing is an expensive city to live in, if earning local yuan. Most of the stuff were expensive, or equivalent to Singapore pricing.

– Our tour guide intents to migrate eventually, but intents to come to Singapore first, as a stepping stone. People from China intent to migrate to Western countries using Singapore as a stepping stone. Which made me wonder: isn’t it easier for Singaporeans to migrate to Western countries, since we were born on a stepping stone?!

– Beijing air quality is pretty bad. Most of the photos we took, the people look great in the foreground, rich colours and all, but the background is always hazy.
– Each rubbish bin on the street has two compartments – for recyling/for trash. For recycling to truly work, the government has to take the first step, which can be seen in Beijing
– Likewise, the use of plastic bags were banned overnight. Don’t expect your groceries to be bagged for you! They do have paperbags in some places though.

– The cinema we went to on a Monday, tickets were 80yuan! That’s about SGD15! And we complain our movie tickets are expensive.

– Beijing has weird toilet practices. There are no toilet paper in the cubicles. You have to grab some from the outside before you go in. Also, there’s a sign in the cubicle telling you to dispose of used toilet paper into the small bins next to the toilet bowl. Yes! Even after you wiped the shit off your ass! I guess they don’t want the toilets to clog.