Singapore's first privately-run hawker centre opens for business

Kampung@Simpang Bedok, Singapore's first privately-operated hawker centre, officially opened today for business.

Managed by Best Of Asia, an F&B social enterprise started by a group of 12 friends, the centre has 32 stalls. The social enterprise is led by 52-year-old retiree Deirdre Murugasu, formerly deputy chief executive at water-treatment giant Hyflux.

The group aims to help tenants grow their businesses, including giving them an option of getting a salary and not paying rent - until they are able to run their stalls on their own.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, who opened the hawker centre, called it an "exciting development".

"For a long time, I have wanted hawker centres to be managed on a not-for-profit basis, by social enterprises like cooperatives or even this latest entity," he said.

The important thing is for it to remain viable, he said, as well as to provide good livelihood to people who may be disadvantaged or who may not have an opportunity to start their own businesses.

"And also for good-hearted people with business ideas and imagination, to help others to create a multi-disciplinary team that will make this place viable, attractive and hopefully a model for the future."