WP’s Leon Perera and KF Seetoh discuss on ways to support hawkers in Singapore and promote its culture

WP’s Leon Perera and KF Seetoh discuss on ways to support hawkers in Singapore and promote its culture

The Workers Party (WP) Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC Leon Perera and Makansutra founder KF Seetoh recently came together over a meal to casually discuss on Singapore’s hawker culture and what can be done to help and support them better.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday (24 August), Mr Perera shared a video of their conversation at a food court where the duo talked about “reforming the rent tender system, creating a crew of permanent hawker ambassadors, looking into the issues facing hawkers in the huge privately-run kopitiam and food court sector as well as doing more to promote Singaporean hawker cuisine abroad, among other issues”.

In the video, Mr Perera emphasised that it is important to protect, professionalise and promote Singapore’s hawker culture, adding that this is something he stressed when he moved a motion in Parliament recently.

When Mr Perera asked Mr Seetoh on what Singapore should really pay attention to in terms of the hawkers, the legendary hawker advocate said that the country should focus on institutionalising the hawker food culture.

“I’ve always used the word, ‘institutionalised hawker food culture’. (I think) there should be more attention paid to this really organic culture that our foreparents gave us. Food roots us and in Singapore, our food is affordable. It is really something we should really pay a lot of attention to,” he said.

He also went on to note that the steps taken by the hawkers to continue the hawker culture is “quite weak”.

“The continuity of this culture is quite weak. I have to say they’re going their level best but it’s not really their forte,” he said.

He added, “I feel that there should be an academy, or some kind of college – to study, promotion and entrepreneurism of heritage hawker food culture here in Singapore.”

Echoing the same sentiments, Mr Perera reiterated that this was one of the ideas he mentioned in Parliament where an academy can be a focal point for developing the culture – for both the business and culinary aspects.

“We shouldn’t take it for granted. There’s a lot of know-how in there that needs to be preserved,” said the MP.

He pointed out that the he also suggested in Parliament on the need to have permanent crew of hawker ambassadors who would be able to help hawkers to digitalise, set up their stories online as well as to help them navigate all the government schemes that are available.

Promote hawker cuisines overseas

Moving on, Mr Seetoh stressed that it will be “quite pity” for people to learn about the hawker culture and just open it in Singapore.

“I always say that these coffee shop entrepreneurs, who open up so many coffee shops, should export. The most exportable culinary culture in Singapore is our kopitiam’ culture,” he said.

If that’s not all, Mr Seetoh also said that some help need to be given out to privately-run hawker stalls as their prices are the same as hawkers.

“Sometimes I feel that they (privately-run ones) should be accorded some help, like the NEA hawker-waiver. During COVID-19, I think waivers are given but every hawker in public or private operation is suffering,” he said.

Adding to this, Mr Perera said that there are a lot of challenges faced by these hawkers during the COVID-19 period, especially the time when Heightened Alert restrictions were imposed.

This is why, Mr Perera said, he spoke in parliament about giving out Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) to help hawkers.

“I spoke in parliament about giving JSS to the hawker stalls because they were very affected by the Heightened Alert restrictions that came about this year where dining in was prohibited for some time. So think we need to look at those schemes as well,” the politician said.

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