New model hawker centres: A good idea gone wrong

As a social entrepreneur, I appeal to the National Environment Agency (NEA) to stop using the term social enterprise hawker centres because it gives a bad name to social enterprises.

There is nothing social in these new problematic models as seen by the hawkers' and public's reaction.

This is an example of how bureaucratic processes can transform a good idea into a dysfunctional situation.

First, an official wants to rejuvenate hawker centres to be relevant for the future. A committee interprets this idea into a concept without using human centred design processes. The bureaucrats translate the committee's deliberations into a restrictive tender system. Commercial operators try to make money within these restrictions. New charges and rules are introduced that cause unnecessary hardships.

The whole process is essentially an attempt to transform a public good into a private good by adding an additional layer of management, which inevitably adds to costs.

Now, we need to return to the original purpose and meaning behind the redesign.

Jack Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2018, with the headline 'New model hawker centres: A good idea gone wrong'. Print Edition | Subscribe