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Promote entrepreneurship – but what kind of stupid rule is this?

Leong Sze Hian

If your wages have not been catching up with the transport fare increases, what do you do? Become an entrepreneur, as the Government has been encouraging people to be.

In the report, “PM Lee says public sector should embrace entrepreneurial culture” (CNA, Jul 17), PM Lee was quoted as saying:

Public sector entrepreneurship requires officers to take risks, because new methods and technology may fail to work. But, when they do, when they work, they can bring very significant benefits to Singapore.

I refer to the letter, “Give vendors a chance to continue supporting themselves” (New Paper, Jun 14), in response to the article “Goodbye Pushcarts” (New Paper, Jun 13). In the New Paper report, it was said that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has instructed town councils that they are not allowed to let out space for commercial activities on a permanent basis. Town council rules prohibit permanent business activities, and according to the HDB, pushcarts are considered permanent business activities.
What kind of a “stupid” rule is this?

What is the rationale for such a rule?

It puzzles me that while non-permanent business activities are allowed, permanent business activities aren’t!

In October 2002, all five community development councils (CDCs) launched a Retail Incubator Training Programme (RITP) to teach and help unemployed Singaporeans run small retail businesses. Why weren’t the unemployed Singaporeans who were enticed to join this programme then told that their businesses would only be on a temporary basis? Or did this rule not exist then?

After these entrepreneurs have put their “blood, sweat and tears” in building the business, it may be a big blow to them, and cause financial hardship for themselves and their families.

How many of these entrepreneurs are affected?

Since they are currently paying about $1,000 in monthly rental to the town councils, will the HDB gain as they may end up bidding for HDB shop rentals instead?

In a sense, the residents of town councils may also lose out as the town council’s loss of such revenue may translate into higher service and conservancy charges (S & CC) for residents.

Residents will also be deprived of the convenience from the services and goods provided by such pushcarts, such as picking up a quick snack as one gets into the bus interchange or MRT station.

One of the reasons given for the pushcarts to be disallowed was that the carts were also messy and caused obstruction to the walkway. One wonders how many complaints the HDB has received in this regard. Strangely, if this was a problem, why has it taken the HDB five years to decide to do something about it?

For those pushcarts that were “messy”, were the owners given any warnings first?

I would like to suggest that we have a rational debate on this issue. What harm can there really be in allowing pushcart businesses to continue?

I see them everywhere in Singapore, as well as in practically every country in the world.

What’s so unique about the HDB and town councils in Singapore?

Since the NEA’s Street Hawking Scheme is allowed, why not the town council’s pushcarts scheme? What is the difference?

This is reminiscent of the high-profile mobile food vans scheme, which was terminated by the URA, even though five out of the original 30-plus vendors were able to succeed in building a viable business, despite the arbitrary restrictions on where (only in carparks) and when they could operate.

Has our government agencies not learnt anything from the above?

How can we promote entrepreneurship when thriving businesses are forced to close, because of some silly rule, like “town council rules prohibit permanent business activities”?


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