Debate on ministries' budgets: Environment and Water Resources

Grant to help boost hawkers' productivity expanded

Mr Raymond Sim, 33, who sells fresh seafood in the wet market at Block 16 Bedok South Road said he will apply for the Hawkers' Productivity Grant to buy electric fish scalers. They will halve the time he spends on de-scaling fish by hand, which can t
Mr Raymond Sim, 33, who sells fresh seafood in the wet market at Block 16 Bedok South Road said he will apply for the Hawkers' Productivity Grant to buy electric fish scalers. They will halve the time he spends on de-scaling fish by hand, which can take up to a minute and a half for each fish.ST PHOTO: VANESSA LIU

From next Monday, more hawkers can tap a government grant to raise their productivity.

They can also use the Hawkers' Productivity Grant to buy a wider range of cooking equipment as well as devices to manage queues, such as a buzzer to alert customers that their food is ready for collection.

The new offerings were announced by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor yesterday in Parliament, during the debate on her ministry's budget.

The grant will be offered to all market stallholders at the 114 hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the operators it appointed.

Currently, only cooked food stallholders are eligible for the grant to help pay for the costs of buying kitchen automation equipment such as food processors, automatic cookers and sugar cane press machines. From Monday, the list of equipment will be extended from 19 to 24 types, including tools such as electric fish scalers, bone saws and cooked rice dispensers.

The grant, which was launched in 2017, can be used to pay up to 80 per cent of the eligible costs of equipment, with the total capped at $5,000. Its lifespan, which would have ended in October this year, will be extended to March 2023, Dr Khor said.

As of the end of last month, almost $1.5 million was disbursed to 526 cooked food stallholders at hawker centres managed by NEA or NEA-appointed operators.

Mr Raymond Sim, 33, who sells fresh seafood in the wet market at Block 16 Bedok South Road, said he will apply for the grant to buy electric fish scalers.

They will halve the time he spends on de-scaling fish by hand, which can take up to a minute and a half for each fish.

"De-scaling is more time consuming than gutting a fish," said Mr Sim, who has been running the stall with his wife, Ms Tan Yingjie, 34, for the past three years.

"Small businesses like ours find such equipment too costly because we need multiple fish scalers," he added, saying they can come up to a few hundred dollars.

Dr Khor also announced changes in the evaluation of tender proposals for operating future hawker centres under the Socially Conscious Enterprise Hawker Centre (SEHC) model. NEA will put more emphasis on footfall, vibrancy and sustaining the hawker trade, she said.

This means an operator's performance will be assessed according to its ability to draw people to a new hawker centre and maintain a high level of stall occupancy.

The operator also has to propose initiatives that will contribute towards sustaining the hawker trade.

Said Dr Khor: "All in, these measures serve to ensure the SEHC model continues to benefit residents, and support stallholders."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2020, with the headline 'Grant to help boost hawkers' productivity expanded'. Print Edition | Subscribe