SINGAPORE: The appointment of NTUC Foodfare Co-Operative (Foodfare) to manage a group of new and existing hawker centres will bring about economies of scale and benefit both hawkers and patrons, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 10).
The new management model, which was announced last month, will see Foodfare managing five existing and two new hawker centres on a not-for-profit basis.
“(The operators) will have greater flexibility and space to experiment with new ideas and processes to further improve the vibrancy and operational efficiency of the hawker centres for the benefit of both hawkers and patrons,” said Dr Khor.
Dr Khor also gave the assurance that there will be no change to the way rents are determined when the operator takes over the management of the existing centres.
“Subsidised stallholders will continue to pay subsidised rents while non-subsidised stallholders will continue to pay the prevailing market rents as assessed by professional valuers," she said.
"The National Environment Agency will work with the operator to explore ways to increase the vibrancy of the centres to enhance the business there and improve the patrons' dining experience.”
Responding to Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Liang Eng Hwa’s question on whether the running of hawker centres by social enterprises has achieved its desired outcomes, Dr Khor said the feedback from both hawkers and patrons has been largely positive.
There are currently four hawker centres managed by social enterprises - Block 208B New Upper Changi Road and Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre which are managed by NTUC Foodfare, Hougang Ci Yuan Hawker Centre run by Fei Siong Social Enterprise and Our Tampines Hub Hawker Centre managed by OTMH.
Dr Khor said the operators monitor the prices of basic food items at these hawker centres to prevent unreasonable price hikes, and some operators have ensured that the hawkers offer at least a few affordable meals in their menu.
Citing an example, Dr Khor said the stalls at the centres in Ci Yuan and Our Tampines Hub need to have at least two dishes priced at a maximum of S$2.80 each.
To address manpower constraints, the operators have also implemented some productivity measures, she said.
The operator at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre has implemented a self-payment kiosk at all stalls, allowing the hawkers to focus on taking orders and cooking. Meanwhile, the operators at Bukit Panjang, Ci Yuan and Our Tampines Hub hawker centres have also introduced centralised dishwashing to reduce the hawkers’ need for manpower for dishwashing.
Fei Siong Social Enterprise has also rolled out an entrepreneurship programme where new hawkers are given on-the-job training to gain skills and knowledge that can help them in operating their stalls.
So far, 16 hawkers have benefited from the programme, said Dr Khor.