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New Subsidy Given to Cabbies in Beijing
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Two weeks after another round of oil price hikes, taxi drivers in Beijing will receive possible financial support.

In addition to the existing monthly petrol subsidy of 300 yuan (US$37), taxi drivers whose cab charges are 1.6 yuan (US$20 cents) or 2 yuan (US$25 cents) per kilometre 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 is the taxi companies instead of the city government that will provide the money.

The report says only drivers employed by large companies will get the subsidy, and some drivers have been getting additional subsidies since April 1.

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

It started after fuel prices rose by about 6 per cent across the country last July, but when oil prices jumped from 4.26 yuan (US$53 cents) a litre to 4.65 yuan (US$57 cents) at the end of last month, the subsidy was too small to cover the rise in petrol costs.

But the random street survey yesterday of six taxi drivers from six different companies, showed that none of the respondents 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. Even so, my monthly income never exceeds 2,000 yuan (US$250)," said Sun.

"Now, I often wait in front of university gates or hotels. I cannot afford the petrol if I drive along 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 taxi charges per kilometre.

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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