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New Subsidy for Cabbies
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Two weeks after another round of oil price hikes the taxi drivers of Beijing may receive financial assistance.

In addition to the existing monthly petrol subsidy of 300 yuan (US$37), taxi drivers whose cab charges are 1.6 yuan (20 US cents) or 2 yuan (25 US cents) per kilometer, will be given 150 yuan (US$18) per month, the Beijing Times reported.

But not all taxi drivers will get the additional subsidy as it's the taxi companies themselves and not the city government who'll be responsible for providing the funds.

The report says some drivers have been getting additional subsidies since April 1.

The existing subsidy, which is jointly provided by the municipal government and the taxi companies, is given to all 66,000 taxi drivers in Beijing.

It started after fuel prices rose by about 6 percent across the country last July, but when oil prices jumped from 4.26 yuan (53 US cents) a liter to 4.65 yuan (57 US cents) at the end of last month  the subsidy was not enough to cover escalating fuel costs. .

But China Daily's random street survey yesterday of six taxi drivers from six different companies showed that none of them had received the additional subsidy.

"I've never heard of it," said 40-year-old Sun Zhili with Beijing Yinjian Passenger Transport Company. The latest price hike has added at least 10 yuan (US$1.2) to his daily petrol bill, thus seriously reducing his already thin profits.

"I have to work from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day," said Sun. "Even so my monthly income never exceeds 2,000 yuan (US$250)," he said. 

"Now, I often wait in front of university gates or hotels. I cannot afford the petrol if I around the streets without passengers."

Taxi drivers will not enjoy any petrol subsidies if a possible taxi fare adjustment is put in place soon. The report says a taxi price hearing is imminent on the re-adjustment of charges per kilometer.

But Tang Shi, a cab driver with Beifang Taxi Company, said drivers are actually unwilling to raise their unit price because "a price rise means a fall in customers."

(China Daily April 10, 2006)

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