Makansutra founder questions Environment Minister for comments on hawkers

newspaper on hawker rent
Entrepreneur-photojournalist and Makansutra founder, KF Seetoh had commented on a Facebook post that the Parliamentary speech made by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday, is wrong on many fronts.

Mr Seetoh wrote on his Facebook page,

“I wish his scholarly minders in his MEWR would get their ground facts accurately. This is wrong on so many fronts. Firstly, “ingredients from abt 60% of hawkers cost”, leh yao mo kao chor ah! If your food cost is 60%, eh, you long long close shop liao la. If you cannot do below 30%, go be a highly paid civil servant better la. Also, the “progresseive wages for hawker assistants”.. allo, they are already paid way more than your govt mandated $7+ an hour. No takers. Linda Heng is already offering $100 a day for assistant and take up is sluggish and reluctant. The problem is manpower availability, not just about overpaying them. Mana ada orang kereja !

And please, do not make turn the hawkers into minions out to do community and political favours, they really need to make money too. No wrong there at all. Getting them to feed the poor with low priced meals is ok, many i know will happitly give out free and even big disocunted cost+ meal to the displaced, but offering it cheap across the board to all and sundry, will invariably attract the rich and kiamsiap who will invariably bitch about quality and comfort. Let market rates dictate what they will do, it’s a Sg meritocracy thingie.

Sure, there is a big chunk of hawkers paying under $400 for rents, but these are hawkers from the President Devan Nair days still managing the old rental structure. The new stalls in decent places are all hovering at 4 figure rents. (they pay up to $3k at Maxwell). And lets see how these indie operators can “help bring the cost of food down” and make the place viable and relevant.

I am very sad to see the marginalisation of our beloved food culture struggling to grow in our food centres.”

Mr Seetoh noted that while there is a large number of hawkers paying under $400 for their stall rent, but that is due to the rental structure offered to them during the days of President Devan Nair. He added that the new stalls in prime location are all hovering at 4 figure rents, such as Maxwell food centre at figures up to $3,000.

He also questions how the new food centre operators can “help bring the cost of food down” for diners, make the place viable and relevant for hawkers.

Dr Vivian had said in parliament that over 85% of Singapore hawkers today pay less than $1,500 per month in rent, 41% (2,400) of them are paying subsidised rental ranging from $160 to $384. Half of the successful bids are now below 85% of the assessed market rent and that the tendered rentals have been falling and fell by about 3.4% in 2014, and the lowest successful tendered rental is now $1 a month.

Two appointed hawker operator, NTUC Foodfare and Fei Siong will offer discounted bulk purchasing of ingredients to help hawkers to reduce the cost of raw material. Dr Vivian noted that it is a fact that the cost of ingredients and raw materials is the biggest cost driver for hawkers stalls, not rentals.

Dr Vivian’s full speech posted on his own Facebook account.