Bring back shine of progressive hawker centre

When Hougang's Ci Yuan hawker centre opened in August 2015, it was truly impressive.

Spacious and airy, it featured friendly hawkers and moderate food prices.

Cheerful cleaners cleaned up promptly when customers left the table.

To maintain a high standard of food cleanliness and hygiene, all stalls employed cash machines that freed hawkers from the need to touch money.

It was ahead of its time. Residents visiting this heartland food centre felt proud to be Singaporeans.

But, barely a few months later, things began to change.

The cash machines in some stalls wentout of order. Then, more stalls started to drop the machine.

Soon, all the stalls displayed scribbled signs indicating that their cash machine was no longer usable.

Stallholders now handle cash and dispense food with the same pair of hands. Cleaners no longer clean up dirty tables fast enough. Complaints of rude, arrogant hawkers are also starting to show up in social media.

Ci Yuan started out as a promising gold standard. It was the first of the 20 new hawker centres that the Government had pledged to build.

l have no doubt these will come to pass. Yet, one wonders if we still have what it takes to execute and maintain a high-standard low-cost food environment, especially with regard to people and machine upkeep. Is the food-centre operator up to par?

I hope the National Environment Agency will take charge and not let the hopes and dreams of citizens fade into one where mediocrity becomes the norm.

Seah Jin Wah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2018, with the headline 'Bring back shine of progressive hawker centre'. Print Edition | Subscribe