If something has been vociferously criticised by the people directly involved with the social enterprise hawker scheme, shouldn’t the government sit up and take notice? Instead, it appears dismissive and patronising.
According to news reports, Senior Minister of State of Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor has seemingly downplayed public discontent by suggesting that some of the dissatisfaction had been “in part fuelled by hearsay and anecdotes”.
In other words, she is reducing the credibility of the criticism by implying that the public have been misinformed and that the criticism may not be backed by evidence.
That’s the problem with a catchy phrase like “fake news”. It can be used by authorities to clamp down on valid criticism just because a few facts may be inaccurate. The hawkers clearly feel disenfranchised for a reason. Why else would they waste precious time criticising the scheme? They actually have livelihoods to make and better things to do than to sit around and make baseless criticisms. Even if a few facts are inaccurate, does this negate the entire sentiment or the legitimacy of those feelings?
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli has declared that the NEA’s social enterprise hawker model is ‘generally sound’ and has achieved a good outcome in terms of keeping food affordable compared to other hawker centres.
Borrowing the need for something to be “verified” before it can be said from Dr Khor, is this statement by Masagos verified? How do we know that the costs of food is being kept affordable because of the scheme? What is the benchmark for measure? Where is the data? What does “generally sound” even mean? By whose yardstick?
Masagos also noted that the majority of the hawkers at the social enterprise centres are doing well and that 97% of hawkers at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre and 96% of hawkers and Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre have chosen to renew their contracts as of July.
However has Masagos looked into why they chose to renew their contracts? Is it because they have no other choice and are being pushed into a corner? That’s the thing about plucking figures out of context. It is also not verifiable.
Perhaps Masagos needs to heed Dr Khor’s rule book and use information that can also be verified. Otherwise, your reassurances in Parliament about how well the scheme is doing is just as anecdotal as you accuse your detractors of.