Why different standards for new hawker entrants at Old Airport Road?

I am puzzled by NTUC Foodfare's clarification (Cleaning fee hike the main gripe of Old Airport Road hawkers; Oct 26).

Foodfare said that just two hawkers at the Old Airport Road food centre have to follow the rule on operating for a minimum of six days each week, and eight hours each of these days, because they came in after Foodfare took over.

In contrast, existing hawkers can decide on their own operating hours and days of stall closure.

Why are there different standards for the newer entrants?

Imposing minimum operating hours is unnecessary because these hawkers, regardless whether they are existing ones or new entrants, are running their own businesses.

The onus should be on them to decide their expectations for their businesses. If a hawker is satisfied with operating his stall for four hours each day, then it should be his prerogative to do so.

This has been the case for decades under hawker centres run by the National Environment Agency (NEA), and everyone, including patrons, has accepted and lived with that.

To impose regulations that restrict the autonomy of their businesses simply strengthens food critic and Makansutra founder K.F. Seetoh's claim that hawker centres are being run like "a hardcore commercial foodcourt management system" (Spirited debate shows S'poreans' passion for hawker culture: NHB; Oct 26).

Is this the case because the two hawkers are paying different prices for rent and receiving different services under a new scheme?

If so, then Foodfare should clarify and justify further their rationale behind the discrepancy.

It is discouraging to see social enterprises putting in place so many fees and regulations for hawkers, which only serve to make life more difficult for them.

How are we going to entice younger people to enter the hawker scene if running a food business is intentionally made tougher for them? NEA must intervene and stop our hawker scene from being jeopardised by excessive rigidity, rules and costs.

It will be hard for us to win our Unesco bid to recognise hawker culture if fewer hawkers want to enter the scene in the future due to these problems created by social enterprises which are avoidable.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2018, with the headline 'Why different standards for new hawker entrants at Old Airport Road?'. Print Edition | Subscribe