I went back to Penang, my homestate, over the weekend to attend an official function. I grew up in Penang, it was a good feeling to be back. We stayed at the newly opened G Hotel which is adjacent to the Gurney Plaza. The owners of the hotel are Singaporeans who also owned the Gurney Plaza. G Hotel is a signature hotel of the group.
Hawker stalls at the open air gurney drive hawker centre are back albeit better and cleaner. The state government should be credited for doing a fine job here. I had my customary bowl of laksa before leaving for a dinner meeting later. It tasted delicious.
I left Penang the next Monday. Earlier, my mom helped me to book for a taxi to take me to the airport. This older gentleman has been driving my mom to places she wanted to go for a while now. Mr Ng has three school going children. One is graduating this year from USM and he is worried that his son may not be able to find a good stable job.
Mr Ng has been in this line for the last 27 years. Usually, he goes out in the morning and comes home only past midnight. He is definitely working very hard to put food on the table and roof over the heads of his family. His tanned skin shows that life is not easy as a taxi driver.
Mr Ng told me that the state government has promised to sort out the meter rate they could charge passengers for a while now. The current approved rate is 67 cents per km. He lamented that cost of living has gone up tremendously. A plate of char koay teow in some places costs more than RM3.50.
The drivers are asking for RM1 per km which will help them to defray higher fuel price and cost of living. Mr Ng told me that unlike toll rates, the meter rate is not entitled to adjustment every 2-3 years.
In a disappointed voice, he said if the government cannot even help to solve such a small issue how can it be trusted with bigger agendas and issues?
He told me that there are only less than a hundred taxi drivers like himself who are self-employed. Their votes are not important to the government. But if the main purpose of the politicians is to serve, then they should listen to the plights of the people especially those at the lower strata of the society. These people are the real bohsia (voiceless).