Taxis get the green light to increase tariffs despite fuel levy exemption

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Issue 442, Page 4
Word count: 679
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Despite the bill to exempt all fuel levies being approved by the Legislative Assembly last week, the taxi industry yesterday got the nod from the government to raise their flag tariffs by two patacas to 13 patacas beginning September 1.

The increment thereafter will also be increased 50 percent to 1.5 patacas for every 230 metres after the first 1,600 metres of distance.

As well, passengers will be charged 1.5 patacas for every minute the taxi waits.

According to the Transport Bureau (DSAT), other kinds of taxi tariffs will not be changed such as the extra five pataca charge for going between Coloane and the Macau Peninsula.

The new fares will come into effect at midnight of September 1.

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, told the Assembly last week that the government would ensure that the abolishment of consumption tax of fuel and lubricants would lead to a reduction on retail prices.

The Secretary also said that the exemption was proposed in order to relieve local businesses and transport industries’ pressure with soaring running costs due to rising international fuel prices.

However, according to lawmaker Au Kam San yesterday, the taxi fare increase as well as police’s recent tougher prosecution of illegal parking on yellow lines showed that the government’s transport policy was “a mess”.

Mr Au told the Macau Daily Times that the main operational difficulty for taxi drivers was the high vehicle rental charges due to the small quantity of taxis running in the SAR.

Although the lawmaker did not comment on whether the fare increase was justified or was contradictory to Secretary Tam’s commitment at the Assembly last week, he said raising taxi fares could lead to a corresponding effect on taxi rental charges if the number of cabs in service remained insufficient.

Due to inflation and growing petrol prices earlier this year, taxi organisations began submitting fare increase applications to the government in mid May.

However, these applications only got approved yesterday when recent international fuel prices have been showing a reduction which Mr Au said also reflected the inefficiency of the SAR government.

According to figures provided by the lawmaker, there are at present 980 taxis running in Macau, an increase of only 230 since 1997 which he said was “disproportional” to the sky rocketing growth of tourists Macau had received in recent years.

The government used to explain a significant increase in the number of taxis would at the same time worsen the traffic problem in Macau, Mr Au told the MDTimes, adding by contrast the government never tried to suppress the upsurge of private vehicles whose number jumped more than 10,000 year on year.

This, Mr Au said, failed to convince the public about the SAR’s goal to promote the use of public transport, let along the government’s intention of not issuing more taxi licenses, he added.

According to the Transport Bureau (DSAT) in a press release, the fare increase application were passed after considering the industry’s operation costs as well as the level of acceptance from the general public.

A meeting was held at the DSAT office yesterday morning which was attended by DSAT director Wong Wan, his deputy Marine Tang Wai Lin and other department heads as well as representatives from the taxi organisations.

The two sides exchanged opinions about adjusting taxi metres, what measures will need to be taken to support the move, and also issues such as taxi supervision and service quality.

The DSAT said taxis will have their metres adjusted starting in September which will coincide with their annual inspection period.

It is expected that all taxis metres will be modified in two and a half month time.

During the adjustment period, passengers will need to pay according to a tariff table available in all taxis which shows comparisons between old and new fares, the DSAT said.

On the other hand, the Bureau said more resources would be put on organising a string of training courses for taxi drivers as well as publicity campaigns in a bid to boost the industry’s service quality.

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