In 2011, authorities decided to build new hawker centres again after 30 years amidst concerns of the lack of affordable food places. A committee was set up to provide ideas for new hawker centres, and the key recommendation given and acted upon was to manage the hawker centres with a social enterprise model.

However, there has been some dissatisfaction over how these hawker centres are being managed as hawkers are tied down with high rentals, extra costs like dishwashing and tray returns, and imported practices from other food courts and eateries. They are also made to keep their prices low even in locations where footfall can be low, thus affecting the business.   

Read the full article on Channel NewsAsia: The Big Read: Grumbling and rumbling at social enterprise hawker centres — what’s the rub?



It was found that the committee members that provided recommendations for the new hawker centres did not have direct experience in the trade. This was one of the cited reasons for the failure of the new initiatives, as it is advisable to include local representatives with native knowledge in discussions of solutions to problems related to them.

Dr Amy Khor has announced that the review of management practices would include views of actual stallowners via feedback groups. Reviews would be made on the implementation of previous recommendations by the 2012 panel chaired by Elim Chew. She has also came forward to say that their proposed model needs tweaking in order to look into who bears the losses of the model, and to listen more to feedback from the ground.

What is clear is that we cannot allow the costs of rising food prices to be heavily borne by the hawkers as it makes it difficult for them to run the stalls. They are subjected to challenges such as long operating hours, rising cost of ingredients, and management issues, yet expected to provide consumers with traditionally low prices.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. Do you think the public should stop expecting hawker food prices to remain low and be ready to pay more?
  2. What are the benefits of including the views of those people affected directly by issues in panels discussing those issues?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘litany’: a tedious recital or repetitive series
  2. ‘incubation’: the process of supporting and developing
  3. ‘auxiliary costs’: additional costs

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