SINGAPORE: The Government has accepted all the recommendations of the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee and will work together with relevant stakeholders to implement them.
The committee was tasked to review the management and design of new hawker centres, as well as provide suggestions on how to sustain and promote the hawker trade. It submitted its recommendations in February.
Speaking during her ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8), Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor outlined several initiatives that will be implemented within the next few months.
MORE TRAINING, SUPPORT FOR ASPIRING HAWKERS
First, the ministry is working with the People’s Association (PA) to develop a “Hawker Fare” series of culinary classes from May. This is in line with the committee’s key recommendation for the Government to provide training opportunities and pathways for aspiring hawkers.
“Members of the public can learn how to cook hawker dishes like chicken rice, yong tau foo and mee goreng from veteran hawkers themselves,” she said. “While not all trainees will eventually become hawkers, such courses will also help to generate interest in hawker food and culture among Singaporeans, and contribute to sustaining the hawker trade in the long run.”
Dr Khor added that her ministry is also working with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to develop a short course to teach aspiring hawkers relevant business management skills. This includes topics like basic profit and loss analysis and how to tender for a stall, in order to help aspiring hawkers set up and manage a hawker business.
She noted that currently, there are a handful of culinary certification courses in the market, but these courses are largely not tailored to the hawker trade.
More details will be released later in the year, she said.
The Government will also set up a one-stop information and service centre to provide useful information to existing and aspiring hawkers, added Dr Khor. This will include how to tender for a stall, where to go for courses on food hygiene and the hawker trade, and the range of kitchen automation equipment available.
In addition, an incubation stall programme will be launched in the second half of this year. As part of this programme, some hawker stalls will be pre-fitted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to let eligible aspiring hawkers get a taste of being a hawker for a period of time. “This will allow them to decide if they are cut out for the trade without putting in heavy investments,” she said.
S$90M IN FUNDING SUPPORT TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY
Dr Khor also announced that about S$90 million will be set aside for funding support to facilitate the adoption of productivity initiative in hawker centres. She said this will help lighten the load of hawkers and address manpower constraints.
“This will include some funding to increase the adoption of centre-level productivity initiatives, like centralised dish washing and stall-level productivity initiatives like the purchase of kitchen automation equipment.”
The committee had recommended that the Government implement productivity measures in the hawker centres to help hawkers reduce their workload and address the manpower challenges that hawkers are facing.
Dr Khor added that the funding will support the progressive re-configuration of up to 25 existing centres over the next few years to facilitate the rolling out of centre-level productivity initiatives. One example of this is centralised dishwashing integrated with tray return and cashless payment solutions.
She added that the Government will also co-fund up to 70 per cent of the operating costs of such initiatives for hawkers in these centres for a period of time. “This will help lower the initial costs of adoption of productivity measures that will help realise manpower and cost savings in the longer term.”
To promote productivity at the stall level, the Government will also introduce a Hawkers’ Productivity Grant to co-fund the purchase of suitable kitchen automation equipment by cooked food stall-holders. Each stall-holder will be able to claim 80 per cent of the qualifying cost of the equipment on a reimbursement basis, up to a total of S$5,000 within three years.
Hawkers can start applying for this grant in the third quarter of this year, she added.
MAKING HAWKER CENTRES MORE VIBRANT; PROMOTING GRACIOUSNESS
A third recommendation of the committee was to encourage regular organised activities at hawker centres in a sustainable manner.
To this end, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will reach out to more partners like PA, grassroots and community organisations and schools, to adopt hawker centres and organise activities there on a sustained basis.
To encourage this further, Dr Khor said the Government will provide funding support of S$2,000 per event to these adopters, up to an annual cap of S$10,000 for each adopter.
“Such events can enhance patrons’ dining experience at hawker centres, while increasing footfall and benefiting hawkers,” she said.
On the issue of graciousness in hawker centres, Dr Khor said that people recognise that returning their trays is a “kind and considerate behaviour” to be cultivated. She added that tray return facilities have been implemented in all hawker centres since 2015, and they have been working on making tray-return stations more visible, prominent and accessible.
She added that to study how to further improve tray return rates, MEWR is also running a pilot involving the use of specially designed tray decals. It is also working with its cleaning contractor at Zion Riverside Food Centre to train the cleaners to encourage patrons to clear their trays after meals.