Keeping food options varied and affordable

We thank Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi for his feedback ("Allow hawkers to run stalls their way"; Monday).

Hawker centres are an important part of Singapore's social infrastructure - to provide the public with good, fresh, hygienic and affordable food, as well as to provide a livelihood for hawkers.

Our hawker centres do not operate according to totally free-market concepts.

For example, the National Environment Agency (NEA) disallows assignment and sub-letting, in order to remove price speculation on rentals.

Vacant stalls are made available through transparent monthly tender exercises.

With the removal of minimum bids, tendered rental rates have declined.

The Government is also building 20 new hawker centres that will add more than 800 hawker stalls over the next 12 years.

There is a growing demand for dining options throughout the day.

Consequently, we need to optimise the use of the available hawker stalls and encourage hawkers to increase operating hours wherever possible.

NEA has appointed social enterprises to manage some hawker centres, with the first two being the ones in Bukit Panjang and Hougang.

We hope they will bring new ideas and value-add from their experience in food and beverage operations, and property and lease management, to diversify food options while keeping food prices affordable.

The social enterprises are required to operate the centres on a not-for-profit basis while providing access to affordable food, a clean dining environment and all-day dining.

They may also help hawkers lower their costs by bulk purchasing ingredients.

NEA will continue to calibrate its policies to ensure that our hawker centres continue to serve their social objectives.

Ivy Ong (Ms)
Hawker Centres Division
National Environment Agency

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline 'Keeping food options varied and affordable'. Print Edition | Subscribe