Amid increasing numbers of reports on social enterprise hawker centres charging high prices and seemingly more motivated by profit than the “social” element of the scheme, I wonder if more can be done to rectify this before we press on with showing the international community our “hawker” culture. At the end of the the day, the heart of the “hawker” culture is communal by nature and if is becoming commonplace for people to be priced out of partaking in this “hawker” culture under the guise of “social enterprise”, there is no point in ploughing money to form “committees” to oversee how we can showcase our “hawker” culture to the world.
According to reports, a 14-member committee has been set up to oversee and guide Singapore’s effort to nominate its hawker culture for the Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage list. Do we really need such a big group of people to deal with this when we have not even formulated guidelines for what constitutes an “errant” player in the social enterprise hawker centre scheme. As Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor (Khor) declares that action will be taken against those found to be errant, she is light on the details of how this task will be managed. Will there also be a 14 strong team set up to lead the charge on tackling “errant” players in this scheme?
It just seems that we haven’t got our priorities right – being so much more focused on how we look to the international community and the tourists while paying scant attention on the domestic issues that affect Singaporeans. Why spend so much money and effort trying to present our hawker culture globally when the real hawker culture is being eroded? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
While I understand the importance of attracting tourists to visit our country, we need to balance this with prioritising the needs of our citizens. Singapore’s hawker culture is an authentic and integral part of our country. It doesn’t need to be presented in glossy presentations and magazines. It is organic and it is real. The best way to showcase this culture to the world is to preserve it, to give it room to grow. It is therefore imperative that we take urgent steps to ensure that everyone (rich or poor) is still able to partake of it. Priortise catching “errant” players in the social enterprise hawker centre scheme over throwing money at the heritage list!