The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Taxi reform required.

Malaysian taxi drivers are a national disgrace. They, singlehandedly, ensure that every visitor to Malaysia will be stolen from, cheated and predated upon. Since travellers have regular contact with taxi drivers, it is inevitable that they will go home, from Malaysia, with the impression that it is a nation of liars, cheats and thieves. Yet, this is not so, of course: it is the taxi drivers whose behaviour is unusually poor by the nation's standards - at least I am assuming so, based on my experience, so far.

It is negligent in the extreme and very short-sighted, not to do something serious about the level of dishonesty among taxi drivers, in Malaysia. You see, a nation's reputation is a great part of its natural capital. Without a good reputation for honesty, decency and fair dealing, Malaysia will compromise itself internationally. Now, of course, visitors to Malaysia may encounter fair dealing in many aspects of their visit - but if they frequently encounter dishonesty from taxi drivers, that can only leave a poor impression of the nation, in their minds. If Malaysia's leaders want Malaysia to "stand tall" in the world, they must, they absolutely MUST, stamp down on the dishonesty of Malaysian taxi drivers.

My experience the other day is typical of the situation in Malaysia. The situation here is a no-hoper for the customer. Whatever you do with the drivers, the customer loses out. I was in Bukit Bintang (KL's equivalent to Orchard Road). There were taxis parked everywhere. I approached about 20 of them and asked them if they would go "on the meter" - because I know that so many do not want to. To my displeasure, each and every one of the over twenty drivers I asked, REFUSED TO BE METERED FOR THE JOURNEY. They all quoted me fixed fares which were two to three times the price I knew was reasonable for the route. After ten minutes of asking drivers, I gave up on ALL the taxis parked in Bukit Bintang. Instead, I tried to flag one. After another ten minutes, I succeeded in flagging a cab. This one agreed to go on the meter, for which I was thankful. Little did I know that he would go off route, however.

Our driver took me on a giant detour through KL and its surroundings, though that wasn't clear at first. There were traffic jams, so I held my tongue, at first. However, after half an hour, on a journey that should have taken no more than fifteen minutes, I asked why I had seen no signs for our destination. "Yes, signs, have. Over there." he said, pointing into the distance.

I sat quietly waiting for these signs. After about another fifteen minutes, signs duly began appearing for our destination. However, he was travelling a route there, that I had never seen before.

In the end, the fifteen minute journey took one hour to complete and cost two or three times, the usual expected fare. My wife later made the same journey, at a third the time, and less than half the price.

So, here is another lesson about Malaysian taxi drivers. Whatever they do, they will almost always cheat you - especially if you are a foreigner. Either they offer you a fixed price well above market rate - or if you refuse that and find another driver willing to go on meter, they will take you on a giant detour and keep you in the cab several times longer than your journey actually requires. So, it is a case of heads you lose, tails you lose. Whatever happens, you will be cheated.

I should point out that I have met honest drivers. However, they are vastly outnumbered by the cheaters, liars and thieves who end up as cab drivers. I would estimate that, overall, about 70% of Malaysian taxi drivers are dishonest. In some areas, this reaches almost 100%, however. This is from the point of view of a foreigner. It is possible that they try to cheat foreigners more frequently, so this may not reflect a Malaysian's experience of taxi drivers - but it has certainly been my experience.

The situation, whilst problematic, is easily resolved, given political will. All that has to be done is for a penalty to be brought in against dishonest driving. If a taxi driver ever cheats a customer, in any way and that customer complains, then the driver should AUTOMATICALLY LOSE THEIR DRIVER'S LICENSE. They should also be BANNED FROM BEING A TAXI DRIVER, FOR LIFE. Should these two penalties be put in place, drivers would soon start behaving themselves. The ban on being a taxi driver would mean they would lose their livelihoods. The ban on driving is particularly ironic, since it would force them to take taxis and suffer at the hands of their fellow cheaters. That would soon teach them what it is like.

Teams of anonymous taxi inspectors should take cabs at random, looking for cheaters. These should be both Asian and European inspectors, to elicit different responses from the drivers, who may be preferentially cheating one type of customer. A single offense should automatically result in the two penalties being applied. There should be no leeway for the judge to decide on clemency, the penalties should be mandatory.

Were this done, Malaysian drivers would soon start behaving honestly. If this is not done, Malaysia will continue to mar its own reputation by allowing drivers to lie to, cheat and steal from every foreign customer they encounter.

I hope someone will listen and do something about it. The present taxi situation is a national disgrace.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:05 AM 


Blogger Karmeleon said...

Hmm... who will be "listening" unless you write to whoever is in charge, or to the papers, or something other than on your blog?

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your desire for a reformed taxi is no doubt filled with good intentions. However, your solution is, i feel, too simplistic and will definitely be prone to abuses.
Besides, as you have correctly pointed out, political will is needed. And the govt is not willing to look into this 'small' issue now. They're currently focusing on the NEP, on 1Malaysia...etc. To them, taxis are of no concern to them.
Your idea of the enforcers has been used in Singapore, much like the mystery shopper idea.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

Here's a solution: get yourself a car.

It would take a lifetime to reform the Malaysian taxi system.


3:11 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I don't think the fact that the government is planning NEP etc should prevent them from addressing the issue taxi cheats. It only takes ONE person to address the issue, part-time. Sure I could do it myself, if they asked me to. It wouldn't take much organizing to address the matter.

Taxis are of no concern to the leaders because they don't take them. It is that simple. What they don't realize, though, is that they leave a very bad impression with foreigners who are always getting ripped off. That can't be good for Malaysia, in any way, can it?

11:14 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. getting a car.

Sadly, we are thinking just that thought. It seems we may have no choice. The way taxis are is incredibly annoying, at times...and it is a problem that is not, I agree, going to go away in a hurry.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course even you could solve this matter. But that's because you don't have to bother about re-election.

This is a flaw in the democratic system. Good policies and solutions get thrown out because of popular sentiment and votes. Emotion, rather than logic, is the driving force behind policies. All this because of the concepts that humans are rationale, logical and can think in the long term + the idea that maximizing individual's benefits=maximizing society's benefits.

oh well... what to do.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You seem to be suggesting that there are just too many taxi drivers and their families to risk alienating this voting block, by treating them with the stiffness required. If so, that would be a pity because Malaysia's taxi drivers are hurting Malaysia, quite noticeably: any foreigner sees their dishonesty pretty quickly. Wouldn't it be better for the nation to stop it wounding itself in this way? Sure, taxi drivers wouldn't like it - but everyone else should be grateful if they were brought under control.

People are not rational, logical or long term thinkers, sadly. A typical person doesn't think much, has only a very short term outlook, and is emotional rather than logical. This isn't much to build a strong nation on...

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that a taxi reform is long due in Malaysia, with the penalty for cheating being a permanent (or perhaps a long term e.g. 8 years) loss of taxi licence.

The Malaysian government appears to have neglected/refused to address this problem (which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of foreigners) despite their wanting to promote Malaysia as a desired travel destination.

All the same, I suspect that if Malaysia were to pass such laws, it would end up with a similar situation as Singapore, where taxi companies have systematically raised taxi fares (i.e. legitimate overcharging) to a point where many citizens balk at the fares and avoid taking taxis where possible. So one would still have to pay expensive taxi fares anyway.

Perhaps, at the same time as introducing the laws for penalising overcharging, the Malaysian government should regulate the taxi fare scales (as Hong Kong does) to prevent the fares from going up the way Singapore's fares have.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. I agree that a cap on fares would have to be implemented otherwise the taxi companies will just cheat the customer another way (the Singaporean way...) by raising prices unreasonably.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...


Thanks for the suggestion. I have written to a newspaper...let us see if they publish my letter.

9:03 PM  

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