The National Environment Agency (NEA) “will not hesitate” to take errant hawker centre operators to task, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor.
In a Facebook post on Friday (19 October), Khor said that NEA had heard the concerns raised in recent months about cost and contractual terms used by operators. “I have asked NEA to quickly iron out the problems and to do a stock-take of the Social Enterprise model…NEA is already reviewing the contractual agreements with the view to prescribe some of the terms used by operators in these contracts.”
Speaking after a visit to Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Khor 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.”
Hawker centres run by social enterprises such as NTUC Foodfare and Koufu subsidiary Hawker Management have become the subject of heated debate since renowned food critic K.F. Seetoh’s blog post in August, who accused private companies behind these hawker centres of running them like commercial food courts.
Tenants in these hawker centres are paying an average of $4,000 in rent each month, Seetoh pointed out. Among the costs specified in vendor contracts included separate charges for crockery washing, collection and return, and even monetary penalties if the stalls aren’t operational for at least eight hours a day, he added.
Seetoh also wrote an open letter to Khor in October, highlighting the difficult situation faced by the tenants in these hawker centres and urging NEA to take over the management of hawker centres.
In response to a parliamentary question on social enterprise hawker centres, Khor had said on 1 October that the government would continue to refine and improve the management model.