The New Paper
By Koh Hui Theng and Rennie Whang
SINGAPORE - It was a big claim, and it has grabbed the imagination of many people.
The claim: There's big bucks to be made from driving a taxi.
Up to $7,000 a month, said Premier cabby Muhammad Hasnor Hashim, 32, who was featured in a report inThe Sunday Times over the weekend.
Now fellow colleagues want to know: How does he do it?
A Premier Taxis spokesman said its drivers earn, on average, between $1,800and $5,000 monthly. So what is Mr Muhammad's secret?
Unfortunately, they have to wait longer to get an answer. Mr Muhammad is not telling - not right now, anyway.
The Sunday Times reported that he raked in about $200 a day - after deducting rental and fuel costs. On a goodnight, he can even earn upto $500.
That works out to about $7,000 monthly - for plying his trade from Mondays to Saturdays for about eight hours each day.
Calling his taxi "a money machine", the former security manager had said in the report: "Every day, I see the money and it is directly dependent on how hard I work."
But he later clarified to the media that he hit the $7,000 mark only in one month (May this year) - after driving formore than 12 hours a day.
Since then, attempts to contact him to find out more havedrawn a blank.
His tenant said people have been turning up at the flat to look for Mr Muhammad over the last few days. His housing agent was surprised that he had turned off the mobile phone.
Even the credit company that claimed he owes money is looking for him.
When The New Paper visited the three-room flat on Wednesday, a couple answered the door. The Singapore PRs said they rented a room there and had moved in three months ago.
They seldom saw their landlord or his family, except on weekends. The man said he pays the rent to the agent, notMrMuhammad.
Therewaslittle interactionbetween tenant andlandlord. The man said: "He (Mr Muhammad) did not talk about financial matters. Actually, we hardly talk as I'll be in the room most of the time."
His wife asked: "Is something wrong? There have been a lot of people cominghere looking for him." A check with those in the taxi industry showed a $7,000 monthly wage was the exception rather than the norm.
'A special case'
Calling Mr Muhammad's example "a special case", the Premier Taxis spokesman added that the company has not received more queries from potential cabbies following the report.
A ComfortDelGro spokesman declined to give details about cabbies' pay, citing confidentiality.
But fellow cabbies were keen to know Mr Muhammad's trade secret.
A CityCab driver, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said he pulls a 10-hour shift seven days a week and brings home half of what Mr Muhammad does.
He has been driving for 13 years and draws $3,600 every month.
He said in Mandarin: "I make about $210 daily. After taking away $92 (for daily rental and fuel), I end up with about $120."
Not bad for someone who dropped out of Secondary 2 when his family was too poor to pay the school fees, he added.
Mr Lim works 364 days in a year and rests for a day during Chinese New Year. "It's very tough for someone to make as much as $7,000," he said.
Agreeing, Comfort cabby Mr Bock, 46, said he earns $3,500 monthly from working 11 hours daily. He lives below Mr Muhammad's unit in the same HDB block and does not know the latter.
Mr Bock had once tried driving both shifts for a week, from 6am to 9pm. His earnings for that stint: $1,100 in all.
Netizens had wondered if the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) would investigate Mr Muhammad after his earnings were made known.
But an Iras spokesman declined to comment on Mr Muhammad'scase or whether he wasunder investigation.
Former deputy president of the CityCab Operators' Association, Mr Lawrence Toh, said a $7,000 monthly salary must have been possible only for a cabby who "doesn't need to eat (or) sleep".
"Such a cabby won't last long," he said, adding $3,000 was about the maximum takings for cabbies here.