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Ang Mo Kio fire: Shouldn’t the Town Council do more?

By Leong Sze Hian

The entire wet market and food centre at Block 628A, Ang Mo Kio Street 61, was destroyed in a fire on 16 October 2007. (link)

The affected stallholders are being asked to pay an estimated $8,000 to $10,000 to build a temporary market.

With 232 stalls, the total sum assuming an average of $9,000 is $2.1 million.

Why does it cost so much to build a temporary market which will be demolished after 18 to 24 months?

If all condominiums insure the entire building for fire, why wasn't the market insured by the town council or the HDB?

I estimate the annual fire insurance premium for a sum insured of $2.1 million to be only about $2,500.

As most of the stallholders are tenants, they may not have the insurable interest to insure the building (stall) which they rent.

If a landlord rents a part of the building to a tenant, is it reasonable to ask the tenant to be financially penalised by making a contribution, in the event of a fire which destroys the entire building (which was not insured) ? Shouldn't this be the responsibility of the owner? Who is the owner of a market?

I do not know how much funds the Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang Town Council (AMK-YCK) has, but in my constituency, the Aljunied Town Council has $93 million of funds, with $67 million in it's sinking fund, according to it's annual financial report. (See here)

Should not the AMK-YCK Town Council use some of its funds to help towards the building of the temporary market?

This is not the first time that there has been a fire in a market. In fact, another market in the same constituency, at Block 342 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, had a fire in January 2001.

Why have we not learned the lessons and experience from the several fires in markets in the past?

In this connection, Mr Wee Siew Khim, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC said: "As we have practised in all the other market fires in the past, all stallholders will pull together and share the cost of building that market which they are going to use for the next 18-24 months".

With 35 per cent of the Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC) going into the sinking fund, why not use some of it to buy fire insurance for markets?

It is hard enough for small stallholder entrepreneurs to have lost all their business assets, equipment and stocks (hopefully most of these have been insured adequately), and endure months without income until the temporary market is ready - isn't it akin to a double catastrophy to have to decide and try cough up another $8,000 to $10,000?

Some of the stallholders interviewed have expressed their despair and predicament in this regard.

I would also like to suggest that affected stallholders be given the option to have the first priority to rent on a temporary basis the available stalls all over Singapore, at the same if not reduced rentals to what they have been paying.

By the way, how much will their rentals increase when the new market is built? And, consequently, how much will prices increase for the residents of Ang Mo Kio?

Picture from channelnewsasia