NEA announced on Fri (16 Nov) that stallholders at the 7 new hawker centres run by Social Enterprises would receive grant subsidies to help pay for dish-washing services from next year onward.
"From 1 January 2019, NEA will co-fund the cost of centralised dishwashing service with stallholders, at 50% for the first year and 30% for the second year," NEA said.
NEA said that besides manpower savings, the centralised dishwashing services will "enhance the cleanliness of the hawker centre and rate of table turnover, which benefits both hawkers and patrons".
"Stallholders can then focus on their cooking as they need not worry about hiring assistants to wash their crockeries, and can also save on their utility bills, NEA added.
"The extension of NEA’s subsidy to stallholders at the new hawker centres is to help them better manage their operating costs during the initial period before the new centres establish themselves and attract a stable pool of clientele."
“In the past month, besides reviewing the contractual terms between operators and stallholders, NEA also conducted a review of the operating costs faced by stallholders at our new hawker centres. We recognise that these centres may need time to establish themselves and build-up a clientele. Many of the costs faced by the stallholders, like Service and Conservancy charges and table cleaning fees, are ‘pass-through’ charges," said Tan Meng Dui, CEO of NEA, who is a former SAF general.
"We hope that by extending the ‘Productive Hawker Centres’ grant for centralised dishwashing service to stallholders, this will help them to better manage their operating costs in the initial years as they start-up their businesses, and help to sustain our hawker trade in the long term.”
Minister Khor weighs in
Dr Khor added, "The hawker trade has been facing the challenges of an ageing workforce and manpower constraints."
She said, "The centralised dishwashing service has helped to address this as stallholders need not hire assistants, who are hard to find, or pay salaries of up to $1,500 a month."
"This also saves stallholders from paying additional water charges or managing an inventory of crockery and cutlery that have to be replaced due to wear and tear or loss," she defended the centralised dishwashing service.
"Hygiene is better as they do not have to carry out dishwashing in the stall area. We hope this will alleviate the workload of our hawkers, especially older hawkers, and make the trade more attractive to young hawkers by reducing menial work."
It has been reported that Koufu's subsidiary, Hawker Management Pte Ltd, operating the new public funded Jurong West Hawker Centre, has awarded its cleaning and dishwashing contract to GreatSolutions, a company owned by a brother of Koufu's boss.
The contract let GreatSolutions earn close to $64,000 a month.
Hawker Management, in turn, charges each stallholder $1,100 monthly for the centralised cleaning services. With NEA's subsidy for next year, stallholders at Jurong West Hawker Centre would then be paying only $550 a month with the other half paid for by taxpayers.
In any case, NEA will not continue to subsidize the hawkers at these social enterprise hawker centers forever. But with the subsidies, it certainly does help to attract more hawkers to join the new social enterprise hawker centers.