A good start, but tweaks will be needed along the way. At the same time, hawkers and operators of social enterprise hawker centres (SEHCs) should also learn to work closer together in addressing issues.
This seemed to be the sentiment of various stakeholders, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) moved to address some of the problems highlighted by hawkers in recent months.
Entrepreneur Elim Chew, who chaired the 18-member Hawker Centres Public Consultation Panel that recommended the not-for-profit hawker centre model in 2012, said: "Operators and hawkers need to take joint ownership and work in partnership too."
A hawker at the Hawker Centre @ Our Tampines Hub, who declined to be named, believes the changes announced by the NEA yesterday would help young hawkers find a foothold. "Some hawkers are still young and passionate, and need the encouragement to stay on in this line," he said in Mandarin.
Still, some at the hawker centre, which is run by OTMH by Kopitiam, wondered if it will continue to operate 24 hours. There have been complaints that there is insufficient footfall in the wee hours to justify the opening hours at some stalls, even though it was residents who had voted for the scheme.
Food critic K. F. Seetoh, who has been vocal on the issues affecting SEHCs, said the measures were a step in the right direction. But he called for fresh ways to increase footfall at some centres, including bussing in tourists. He added: "Online and social media promotion can also be addressed."
An NEA representative told the media yesterday that the agency's "stock take" of the social enterprise model has yet to be completed, and that more changes will soon be announced.
"Going forward, NEA, as the regulatory agency, will re-balance the soft-touch regulatory approach to SEHCs, and exercise greater oversight to ensure the needs of both patrons and hawkers are well served," said the NEA spokesman.
Cheryl Teh and Calvin Yang