Monday, September 27, 2010

Disappearance of Good Hawkers

Someone wrote to the papers today about decline of hawker food quality. S'pore is known as a food paradise. Hawker centres used to be built by the government. It provides affordable food & is a tourist attraction. However the privatisation of hawker centre in Sengkang & the food courts in shopping malls is like a cancer.

Bad food quality coupled with higher prices. Employees hired to man the stalls in the food courts hardly have pride in the food they whip up to sell & serve others unlike the self-employed hawkers in hawker centres.

Most hawkers in hawker centres work fewer hours & have a 'life' unlike those slogging away elsewhere to pay for high rents. GST was up by 40% (5->7%) few years back & we are told is to help the poor. If the hawker centre is still operated by govt, we & the tourists get to benefit with better food at reasonable prices.

So much for the 'scholars' in government planning leading to:
  • Decline in hawker food quality
  • Decline in reputation as food paradise for tourism
  • Decline in affordability
  • Taxes are not in a way recycled back to help people temporarily down

If we want good hawker food to flourish in Singapore, we must stop squeezing out our hawkers.

While upgrading hawker centres is a good idea, raising rentals simply makes the hawkers' life harder.

In addition, turning over the running of hawker centres to private operators is a bad idea as their main motive will always be to maximise profits. They will bid high to get the right to run the centre and then squeeze the hawkers to recoup their investments.

Hawkers cannot mark up the prices of their food too much. This means that for them to earn more, they must sell more. However, there is a limit to how many bowls or plates they can sell each day.

Increasing rentals raises the cost of doing business significantly for them & they will have no choice but to resort to cost-cutting measures like changing the quality of ingredients used & how they are procured. Is it any wonder that the quality of hawker fare has gone down across the board?

If we do not want to lose our hawker food heritage, we must build an environment that makes it financially viable for existing hawkers & even their successors to do well.

Our hawker food culture is something worth keeping & the Government should continue to nurture that which is uniquely Singaporean.-Joseph Khoo

No comments:

Post a Comment