NEA must relook tender system for hawker stalls

I am aghast at the $10,028 bid for the hawker stall at Chomp Chomp Food Centre. Thankfully, the bidder had a change of heart (Woman bids record $10k rental for Chomp Chomp stall; Bidder ends deal on record $10,028 monthly rental bid for Chomp Chomp hawker stall, both on Aug 30).

My respect to the other level-headed hawkers who had bid an average of $1,707.50 since last year at the same hawker centre.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) must seriously relook and revamp its entire tender system.

As of now, NEA bases its decision on purely financial terms - the bidder who can offer the highest rental per month takes it all, never mind the quality of food he serves.

Let's look at the consequences.

To pay for an exorbitant rental, the hawker will have to sell and serve more dishes.

This may lead to him touting, lowering the quality of the ingredients and serving smaller portions.

Hawkers will be stressed out and customers are not given value for their money.

NEA should adopta courageous and innovative approach.

Award the successful tender based on factors like the quality and uniqueness of the food, as well as the hawker's commitment and financial circumstances.

It should also consider other types of auctions: Dutch auction, where the auctioneer begins with a high asking price, and lowers it until some participant accepts the price, or it reaches a predetermined reserve price; French auction, where hawkers place sealed bids for quantity and price after which the NEA can negotiate a minimum and maximum price; Vickrey auction, where the winning bidder pays the second-highest bid rather than his own.

NEA must try other approaches to preserve the originality and quality of food here.

It is an opportune time, especially after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore's hawker culture will be nominated for inscription into Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Michael Lum

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2018, with the headline NEA must relook tender system for hawker stalls. Subscribe