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NEA: Hawkers in all hawker centres incur ancillary costs as part of their business

NEA Director of Hawker Centres Division, Ms Ivy Ong, wrote a letter to ST Forum today (11 Sep) refuting a media report that hawkers at Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre are paying monthly rental of $3,000.

She said that the monthly rental of $3,000 is not representative at that hawker centre.

"This is not representative of stall rentals at this hawker centre, as only three out of the 42 stalls have a monthly rental of $3,000," Ms Ong said. "Other than one stall with a rental of $1,500, the remaining 38 stalls have a rental of $2,000 each."

ST has earlier reported the following fees incurred by hawkers at Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre:

  • Rent: $3,000
  • Centralised dishwashing and cleaning: $1,200
  • Rental of cash machine: $100
  • GST: $302
  • 10 per cent food discount to be absorbed by stallholder: About $3,000
  • Employee to tend the night shift: $1,200

"The list also included a $1,200 monthly cost to hire a worker to tend the night shift. Only a third of the stalls have extended 24-hour operations," she added. That is to say, it's an option for the hawker to have the 24-hour operation.

As for the 10 per cent food discount, Ms Ong said that it's part of a pricing plan to attract customers to the centre, and is proportional to the business volume and revenue. Hence, it would not be appropriate to cite it as a cost, she said.

NEA says centralised dishwashing has improved cleanliness levels and productivity

In the case of centralised dishwashing and cleaning, Ms Ong noted that hawkers in all hawker centres as well as other food establishments have such ancillary costs as part of their business operations.

"At our new hawker centres, the managing agents procure such operational services so that stallholders need focus on only their business," she said.

"Centralised dishwashing has improved cleanliness levels and increased productivity, and stallholders need not purchase their own crockery or hire hawker assistants to wash it."

However, when NEA first introduced centralised dishwashing service in 2013, Yuhua Hawkers' Association chairman Karney Ngai countered that the service should be an opt-in one, as it does not lower hawkers' expenses.

Ms Ngai told the media, "For those who wash the dishes themselves, it can be difficult to persuade them to pay for something that they are now doing themselves for free."

"And while most hawkers will not raise their prices, some who cannot absorb the higher costs might," she added.

In any case, Ms Ong emphasized that Singapore's hawker centres do provide good and affordable food for Singaporeans.

"The alternative management model for new hawker centres has brought benefits to both patrons and stallholders, including providing a good and affordable mix of food, operating efficiency and innovative ideas," she was referring to the social enterprise management model.

"We welcome feedback and will continue to refine the models for our future hawker centres," she said.