Taken for a ride

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am

Ng Hoi-shan, who is described in other local newspapers as a 'second-generation taxi licence investor', is reported to have made HK$500 million in profits from the acquisition of 106 Hong Kong taxi licences during the financial 'tsunami'. As the price of a licence in Hong Kong has now returned to record highs of about HK$3.8 million, Ng's taxi empire is reportedly valued at HK$1.6 billion and he is making his HK$8 million per month from taxi rents alone. When passengers enter a Hong Kong cab they don't get the feeling of being driven by a multimillionaire, which isn't surprising as Ng is making almost HK$250,000 per day on the back of drivers who endure many hours of purgatory in thick traffic in return for a pittance.

In the 1990s, New York's taxi industry was also transformed from a breeding ground for small businessmen into sweatshops on wheels as speculators bought up medallions - small metal licence disks - that were then rented to hard-working drivers at exorbitant fees. Indeed, most Hong Kong taxi drivers now work six or seven hours per day just to pay for their licence and vehicle. As a result, even the hardest working among them struggle to take home HK$10,000 per month. It seems egregious that a basic service administered by the government should become another casino playground for Hong Kong's wealthiest individuals; but then, our fair city has become a model for all the world's plutocrats, so to expect anything else would be foolish.