SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) is working closely with hawker centre operators and their tenants to address issues concerning cost and contractual terms, said Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor on Friday (Oct 19).
"I have asked NEA to quickly iron out the problems and to do a stock-take of the social enterprise model," Dr Khor said in a Facebook post.
Her comments come amid concerns hawkers have raised about the social enterprise management model, which was introduced with the aim of keeping food prices low while making the hawker trade sustainable.
Under this management model, operators also provide services like centralised dishwashing and cleaning.
However, some hawkers have complained about the extra fees levied on top of rental and other compulsory charges.
At Jurong West Hawker Centre, for instance, stallholders had to pay for a tray-return programme that rewarded customers with 20 cents for each tray they returned. The issue has since been resolved between operators Hawker Management and stallholders.
On Friday, Dr Khor said authorities have noted the concerns raised.
“NEA will not hesitate to take operators to task if they are found to be errant. NEA is already reviewing the contractual agreements with the view to prescribe some of the terms used by operators in these contracts," she added.
“We will continue to fine-tune the management model, to safeguard the interests of Singaporeans - patrons and hawkers - and achieve the objective of ensuring that Singaporeans have access to affordable food and hawkers can make a decent living."
Of the 114 hawker centres in Singapore, seven new centres are run by social enterprises. Dr Khor said some time is needed to evaluate and improve the management model.
"New hawker centres take time to establish themselves," said Dr Khor.
“Having social enterprises run seven of our new hawker centres is one of the ways we are trying to address the many challenges of the hawker trade such as renewal and manpower constraints, and at the same time meet the evolving dining needs of residents.
“Some flexibility is given to these enterprises to try out different ideas and innovative practices, to bring about vibrancy in our hawker centre scene, and benefit both patrons and hawkers," she added.
In terms of ensuring affordable dining options, Dr Khor said NEA sets controls on food prices, assess operators whose bids offer the lowest total cost to stallholders more favourably and ensures that operators cannot increase stall rentals during the tenancy period.
“This is to ensure that Singaporeans continue to have access to affordable food in clean environments, and that our hawkers can earn a decent living,” she said.
In her Facebook post, Dr Khor also highlighted NEA’s Incubation Stall Programme which supports aspiring hawkers as a way to renew and sustain the trade. She shared a photo of young hawker Michelle Yee, who went through the programme, and said she was very happy to see her doing well running her stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre.