Social enterprise hawker centre model

Why does onus fall on NEA to provide subsidies?

While I applaud the move to subsidise dish-washing costs for hawkers at seven social enterprise hawker centres, I am bothered by the National Environment Agency's (NEA) intervention (Subsidies for social enterprise hawkers; Nov 17).

Social enterprise hawker centres are owned by operators who reap profits from hawkers under their management.

In turn, the profits should be "ploughed back into the hawker centre - whether by making the place better or bringing in programmes", as Ms Elim Chew, who had chaired the Hawker Centres Public Consultation Panel, said (Social enterprise operators to get views of hawkers; Oct 25).

Logically, shouldn't subsidising dish-washing costs for hawkers be part of their social objectives to make the place better and more sustainable?

Why does the onus fall on NEA, instead of the private operators, to provide the subsidies?

Similarly, we do not see NEA subsidising dish-washing costs at foodcourts privately owned by these operators.

The social enterprises should be held responsible to allocate part of their profits to improve their hawker centres - in this case, by providing subsidies for hawkers' dish-washing costs, instead of keeping huge profits for themselves and letting NEA bear the cost at the expense of taxpayers.

The social enterprises should be held responsible to allocate part of their profits to improve their hawker centres.

For NEA to step in and partially fund the hawkers' dish-washing costs shows the financial failure of social enterprises in managing their hawker centres and, if so, perhaps NEA should just regain full control of all hawker centres.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'Why does onus fall on NEA to provide subsidies?'. Print Edition | Subscribe