Speech at Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony For The Drive And Save Scheme For Taxi Drivers
Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Manpower, Singapore Conference Hall
Mr Seng Han Thong,
Advisor to the National Taxi Association
Mr Wee Boon Kim,
President of the National Taxi Association
Mr Liew Heng San,
Chief Executive Officer of the Central Provident Fund Board
Ladies and gentleman,
- Let me start by extending my warmest congratulations to the National Taxi Association, or NTA, on its inauguration last month. NTA has come a long way since the first Taxi Operators’ Association was established in 1997. Then, there were only 150 members. Now, NTA is more than 10,000 strong and growing. This is a significant achievement.
- With a larger taxi industry to support, the challenges NTA faces have grown increasingly complex and larger in scale. However, with the previous six Taxi Operators’ Associations (TOA) now united as one, I am confident that NTA will be able to rise to the challenges and propel the taxi industry to greater heights.
NTA’s Contributions to the Taxi Industry
- 3 Over the years, TOA has worked closely with the taxi companies and the Government to enhance the welfare of taxi drivers and improve the taxi business. One example is the setting up of the Singapore Taxi Academy in 2003, with the help of NTUC. The academy has helped thousands of taxi drivers upgrade and upskill, allowing them to improve their earnings. For example, some have undergone training on how to enhance the taxi service experience for their customers; others have attended programmes to sharpen their street navigation skills so that they can determine the best route quickly.
- TOA has also been through thick and thin with its members. When the SARS epidemic struck Singapore in 2003, TOA acted quickly and rallied taxi drivers to combat the disease by instituting routine temperature checks and facilitating contact tracing. This helped to regain the confidence of the public who became wary of taking taxis at the height of the crisis. In 2009, TOA was again instrumental in the battle against the rising community spread of Influenza A (H1N1). To encourage drivers to seek medical attention as soon as they were unwell, TOA worked with NTUC to roll out the “U Care-TOA Immediate Relief” package worth $650,000 for taxi drivers. This played a crucial role in assuring the public that it was safe to take taxis at that time. And for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG), the newly inaugurated NTA has arranged for its members to carry mini-flags bearing the YOG logo, to show its support for the Games.
Drive and Save Scheme
- The NTA has also shown its commitment to improve the welfare of taxi drivers by initiating a new scheme for its members – the Drive and Save Scheme, or DAS Scheme in short.
- The DAS Scheme aims to raise the healthcare savings of taxi drivers. For as little as $0.50 per day, a principal hirer can enjoy a co-contribution of another $0.50 a day from the taxi company into his or her Medisave Account (MA). This could add up to around $360 in Medisave contributions for each principal hirer per year.
- In addition, those who meet the criteria for Workfare stand to benefit even more as they can potentially receive up to around $1,800 in income supplement from the Government annually. I’m sure this sounds like a good deal to everyone here.
- When NTA Adviser Mr. Seng Han Thong first approached me with the idea for the DAS Scheme, I encouraged him to go ahead. Like NTA, the Government was concerned about low Medisave savings among self-employed persons, such as taxi drivers. Our CPF records show that among CPF members aged between 30 and 55, the median Medisave balance of working self-employed persons is about 20% lower than that of active employees. Yet, with longer life expectancies, everyone must be prepared for the possibility that they may have to spend more on their medical needs.
- I am also heartened that all the taxi companies — Comfort, CityCab, Transcab, SMRT, Premier, Smart and Prime – have supported the scheme, and will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU as a mark of their commitment towards the scheme shortly. This bears testament to the importance that taxi companies place on the welfare of their drivers. I commend the taxi companies for their generosity and encourage members to take advantage of the scheme.
- My Ministry and the CPF Board will work with NTA and the taxi companies to implement the DAS Scheme in 2011. Principal hirers who already make the necessary Medisave contributions to the CPF Board regularly will automatically benefit from the DAS Scheme and receive their companies’ Medisave co-contributions. For drivers who have not been contributing to their Medisave, I strongly encourage you to start doing so. You can approach the CPF Board’s booths here for more information on Medisave and the Workfare scheme.
- Saving for one’s healthcare needs is a personal responsibility. NTA’s Drive and Save Scheme will go a long way in helping taxi drivers do so. It inculcates a habit of regular Medisave contribution, and can make a significant difference in helping taxi drivers build up their Medisave balances to meet their healthcare needs. This is an example of what can be achieved when the tripartite partners work together to achieve a win-win outcome.
- I wish you all a good day ahead.