Hawker prices change as times change

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has correctly said that good policies cannot alleviate the costs that come with changing lifestyle habits ("Measures in place to ease woes of higher living costs"; Aug 24). 

This applies to hawker food, too.

People should not continue to expect the dirt cheap hawker food of yesteryear ("Why subsidise lifestyle choice of eating out?" by Mr Calvin Cheng Ern Lee; Aug 21, and "Eating out a necessity now" by Mr Tan Keng Hai; Aug 22).

Gone are the days where the hawker trade was a contemporary livelihood, where family members helped in serving and washing to keep costs down.

Today, most hawkers, particularly those from the younger generation, find it not lucrative to sweat it out in hot stalls.

Hawkers outsource their cleaning, and the ever northward costs of raw materials drive up hawker food prices.

Yet, the public keeps asking the Government to intervene and offer things such as subsidies and even free rental to maintain the low prices of hawker food.

If people reckon hawker food is a necessary staple, they must certainly not pay derisory prices, which are not worth the sweat of a hawker who has to earn at least a decent wage to support his family.

If people can afford the latest smartphone, flat-screen TV, laptop, a nice home, enrichment courses, a car, fine dining and living, and overseas holidays, they should not worry about hawker food becoming unaffordable.

I dare say that prices of hawker food will not dip any lower.

With the exception of low-income groups, the Government should not be burdened with the obligation to support the public and come up with subsidised schemes for daily living essentials, such as hawker food and transport.

Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Hawker prices change as times change'. Print Edition | Subscribe