Hawkers express preference for NEA management

SINGAPORE — Twelve organisations — including social enterprises and cooperatives — have submitted proposals for the management of four hawker centres whose leases will expire soon.

But some hawkers say they would still prefer the National Environment Agency to manage the centres.

Mr Kiang Chou Tong, president of Ghim Moh Market/Shop Merchants’ Association, said: “The members hope NEA will continue to manage the hawker centres because they are a neutral party and will look after the hawkers’ interest. There has been no precedence with other groups, so they’re worried if this will succeed.”

The four hawker centres are at Ghim Moh Road, Upper Changi Road, Aljunied Avenue 2 and West Coast Drive. Their leases expire at the end of May.

NEA had called for proposals at the beginning of the year, saying selected parties would be appointed as master tenants to allow them to operate hawker centres using new models.

This was after a public consultation panel in 2012 recommended that new hawker centres be managed on a not-for-profit basis by social enterprises or cooperatives.

Social enterprises and cooperatives which submitted proposals said that they would carry out renovations once every three years and charge hawkers who do not receive a government subsidy S$3,000 less in rent.

Hawkers say this is similar to what the NEA does.

An academic said that for hawkers to continue to provide food at affordable prices, organisations could consider renting stalls to those who are not well-off.

Assistant Professor Leong Kaiwen from the Division of Economics at NTU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, said: “It means that those with a lot of money cannot bid for the stalls, so the rental is definitely much lower.

“Secondly, if you allow those from disadvantaged backgrounds to rebuild their lives — because you give them economic power in terms of entrepreneurship – you empower them.

“And because they themselves are from disadvantaged backgrounds, they know there are others who are like them as well. Having met some of them, I know that they will also do their best to try to keep prices low. So I think this would be the best way to move forward.”

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