Both stallholders and members of the public have expressed complaints and criticism due to the high rental costs of the Ramadan bazaar held at Geylang Serai this year.
Local media outlets have reported how some vendors struggled with the “high bids needed to secure a space,” with rent ranging from S$15,000 to S$30,000 for one unit for food and beverage stalls.
Kf Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, has jokingly referred to the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar as “the world’s most expensive pasar malam stall“.
The contracted organizer had earlier defended itself that the stalls at the bazaar are “within market rental rates.”
A spokesperson from Enniche Global Trading, one of the contractors, said, “It starts from top down. It begins from the tender value. What the tender value will determine distributed costs.”
Some of the stallholders had told Channel News Asia that they regretted taking up a stall at the bazaar. One of the Kebab sellers Mr Hasan, said, “We’re all losing money. (We) cannot cover costs, cannot even cover rent.”
Amidst the criticism over the bazaar, People’s Action Party Member of Parliament Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, the grassroots adviser at Geylang Serai, wrote in a Facebook post saying that more than 2 million visitors have visited the bazaar.
“I am pleased to announce that we have now exceeded more than 2 million visitors who have come to Bazaar Raya Geylang Serai! ”
“We are already on set to be on record of having the largest number of people coming to a Ramadan bazaar in Singapore,” said Assoc Prof Faishal, who is also Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development.
Prof Faishal also claimed that some vendors told hima that many of the businesses are doing very well, and some have even covered their rental cost after a week.
However, veteran journalist Bertha Henson criticized the Straits Times – a publication at which she has been an editor – for not seeking further clarification from the minister regarding the source of the figure.
“How did he come to this? We must trust that this is so because he said so? Then there is a whole lot of backgrounding about the woes that have been reported and the last par is about the same guy saying the shops are doing well.”
Henson questioned the credibility of the claim and the lack of due diligence in reporting it, “The trouble with picking up from FB is that sometimes the comments and so called info should be CHECKED first. Credible media do NOT run anything just because someone with a title says so on social media. ”
It appeared that Henson raised a legitimate question that Minister Faishal needs to address with credible evidence to support his statement.
One-third of the population visited GS Ramadan Bazaar?
Not just veteran journalists like Henson share this skepticism; Singaporean netizens have also commented on ST’s Facebook post expressing their doubts about the Minister’s claim.
For instance, one netizen challenged the Minister to substantiate his claim by saying, “Don’t bluff. Let’s see the audit from each and every stall at the end of the festival and verify how well they are really doing.”
Several netizens asked the Minister to explain how he counted the footfall, while others suggested that if even half of the claimed 2 million visitors had made purchases, then all the stallholders should be making huge profits:
Not to mention that a foot fall of 2 million might suggest that one-third of Singapore’s population has visited the Ramadan bazaar:
ST should take the initiative to get a more accurate and truthful picture
Some comments criticised ST’s reporting for relying solely on MP Faishal’s Facebook post. A netizen agreed with Henson’s scepticism, and suggested that the reporters should take the initiative to interview the stallholders directly to get a more accurate and truthful picture of the situation.
A netizen also asked ST to provide information on the number of stalls that are open and how many have not been taken up, to provide a clearer picture of the situation.
Did Minister omit mention of exorbitant pricing due to rental cost?
A concerned netizen expressed disappointment that the Minister failed to mention the exorbitant pricing of goods sold at the bazaar due to the high rental costs that can go as high as $24,000.
What about profit?
Some comments also pointed out that the organizers of the Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar likely made a significant profit from the high rental fees paid by the stallholders: