The New Paper reported on Monday (30 Jul) that vendors at the new Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre were unhappy over several issues – late payment of cashless transactions (for up to 5 months), non-clearing of tables and damaged cutlery by contractors.
What was most shocking from the report is that these stallholders each pay $4000 to $5000 a month for rental. The report gave a further breakdown: $850 for dish-washing services, $550 for table-clearing services, and $150 for the cashless payment service.
If one recalled, NTUC Chief and PAP Minister Ng Chee Meng said just 2 weeks ago at its opening that the NTUC was “committed to using social enterprises to set industry benchmarks to keep daily necessities affordable” – these were the exact words reported by the mainstream media.
Given that the Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre was run by NTUC foodfare, surely the Minister was aware of the high rental costs faced by these hawkers? If so, then how does he justify his comment that NTUC is committed to making food affordable when the rentals are sky high? This is certainly not a new issue.
Three years ago, young hawker Douglas Ng from Fishball Story made a Facebook post which went viral. He contended that if a bowl of noodles were to be sold at $2.70, then the profit margin would only be $0.50 and that the tender system by NTUC is “so wrong”.
A separate blog post by Moneysmart revealed that the profits was 45 cents for chicken rice and $1 for noodles. The issue was further highlighted by A Noodle Story which illustrated that a popular stall manned by 2 people which serves 200 customers a day will see each assistant taking home only about $90 each.
If we were to use such logic to Pasir Ris hawker centre, one has to sell almost 350 bowls of noodles daily just cover their rent and break even. This is almost impossible since even famous stalls at crowded hawker centres have reported that they sell about 200 servings a day.
This then, is the “real” truth about the financial difficulties of running a hawker stall. Not only do these hawkers have to struggle with low margins, the conditions in which they work are both demanding and tiring; their money is extremely hard earned.
With at least 5 store closure at the Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre in less than half a year, one cannot help but think about how the system of high rents has made things even more difficult for them. And yet the words that come out of the Minster’s mouth paint a different picture.
Which is worse? A deluded Minister or a disconnected one?