People’s Voice (PV) chief Lim Tean took to Facebook on Sunday (13 December) to share worries and frustration faced by Waterloo Street vendors who will soon have to pay rental fee for designated spots at the street.
He said this after leading a group of PV members and volunteers to visit these vendors on Sunday.
For those who are unaware, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced on Tuesday (8 December) that starting 4 January 2021, vendors along Waterloo Street will be required to pay S$48.15 monthly fee to operate at designated spots as part of the government’s “street enhancement exercise”.
Currently, vendors are not required to pay for their space, except for flower vendors who have to pay S$120 annually for a street hawking license from the Singapore Food Agency.
SLA said in a statement that there are currently about 41 vendors in total, comprising 19 fortune tellers, 19 flower vendors, two reflexologists and a cobbler. They will have to ballot for a lot on 14 December and move into their allocated spot by 4 January next year. SLA explained that this is to ensure “fairness and transparency” in allocating the spots for them.
In Mr Lim’s post, he called the “street enhancement exercise” by the government as “absurd”.
Explaining his point, the lawyer wrote: “These vendors ply small and micro trades such as cobbling and fortune telling. Many have been there for a very long time. I spoke with a fortune teller who has been there for over 40 years! They earn very little.”
He added, “Some would be lucky to earn $40 to $50 a day in normal times. But these are not normal times and their income have been badly affected. Having to pay close to $50 a month for permission to ply their trade is a heavy burden for them.”
Mr Lim also uploaded a couple of video of his walkabout at Waterloo Street in a separate post.. He stated that the “overall sentiment is unhappiness about what is about to happen to them.
Mr Lim also noted that the ministers and civil servants decided to make these decisions without realising the importance of S$50 to these small time vendors.
“It is a relocation exercise”
The opposition party leader also pointed out that these vendors have to undergo a balloting exercise today to find out where their new spots will be at the new location nearer to the Fu Lu Shou complex.
In response to this, Mr Lim said that he did not realise that these vendors would actually be relocated to a spot that is a short distance away from their original space, adding that is now a “relocation exercise” and not a “street enhancement exercise” as per what the government stated.
“I had not realised that they would actually have to relocate a short distance away. So what “Street Enhancement” project are we talking about???? To me, it is a relocation exercise.”
The PV chief also highlighted that many vendors are worried on where their new spot will be.
“At their present location, a social order has developed and each vendor knows his/ her place. Those who have been there a Long time of course occupy better spots.
“It’s evolution in action. But balloting may mean that these old-timers get inferior spots in the new location compared to relative newcomers, and this can have a significant impact on their income,” he explained.
In the post, Mr Lim also noted that he had earlier visited some ex-Sungei Road Vendors who are now living in two shophouses in Kelantan Road.
“These vendors were turfed out of Sungei Road in 2017. Today, 3 years or more since then, the old site has still not been developed although it has been boarded up,” he said.
Mr Lim explained that these vendors have moved to different locations across Singapore like Chinatown Centre and Pasar Malams. However, the ambience and charm of the old locations is no longer there and business is not doing well, the lawyer stated.
“A kind person called Raymond Khoo helped a few of these vendors find a new home in 2 rented shophouses in Kelantan Road. They appear to be much happier in their new location (which is a stone’s throw from the old location) and are hoping to make a comeback,” he noted.