Senior Minister of State of the Environment & Water Resources, Dr Amy Khor said that the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be doing a ‘stocktake’ of the social enterprise model at hawker centres to address the issue of cost and contractual terms used by operators. Dr Khor has also requested that the NEA quickly iron out any problems, according to her post on Facebook.
She added that the NEA is already reviewing the contractual agreement and will continue to fine-tune the management model to safeguard the interest of both patrons and hawkers so that Singaporeans will continue to have access to affordable food while hawkers are able to make a decent living. Dr Khor noted that the pilot for this social enterprise model only started 3 years ago, adding that “We have been monitoring and evaluating the model with the view to further refine and improve it.”.
This statement follows from the recent conversations surrounding high rentals at hawker centres and hawkers having to fork out more money for services like the tray-return programme at Jurong West Hawker Centre. Dr Khor said, ‘The NEA will not hesitate to take operators to task if they are found to be errant’.
Dr Khor notes that one of the concern with the hawker trade is the ageing stall owners – the median age is now 60. She also said that allowing social enterprises to run some of the new hawker centres is of the strategies the NEA has employed as a means of addressing issues such as manpower constraints while also addressing the evolving dining needs of residents.
These social enterprises, according to Dr Khor, are given some leeway to experiment with different ideas and innovative practices to rejuvenate the hawker centre industry in a way that benefits both patrons and hawkers. But at the same time, some measure of control is of course enforced to protect all parties.
“We set controls on food prices, assess operators whose bids offer the lowest total cost to stall-holders more favourably, and ensure that operators cannot increase stall rentals during the tenancy period. This is to ensure that Singaporeans continue to have access to affordable food in clean environments, and that our hawkers can earn a decent living,” said Dr Khor.