Budget debate: New hawker centres to open this year, more support to be given to hawkers

Hawkers will continue to receive financial support through the Small Business Recovery grant. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Four new hawker centres in Bukit Canberra, Fernvale, One Punggol and Senja are slated to open in the third quarter of this year.

Also set to reopen this year after redevelopment are the Market Street Hawker Centre, which used to be at Golden Shoe Carpark, and the Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, which replaces the hawker centre at Blocks 1A, 2A, and 3A Commonwealth Drive.

Market Street Hawker will be open for business from April 1 and Margaret Drive Hawker Centre will welcome diners in the fourth quarter of this year.

Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor shared these updates during the debate over her ministry's budget on Monday (March 7).

She also said that another five hawker centres are currently being constructed and will be completed in the next few years, while two more are in the planning and design stage.

Dr Khor also said that a new hawker centre would be coming to Tampines Town at a later date, and that upcoming hawker centres would incorporate sustainability features.

Some of these features include food waste digesters and solar panels.

In her speech, Dr Khor also said that hawkers would continue to receive financial support through the Small Business Recovery grant.

Hawkers who are Singaporean or permanent residents will get $1,000 if they do not have employees or get $1,000 for each local employee who receives Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, capped at $10,000.

This applies to operators and stallholders of Singapore Food Agency-licensed markets, hawker centres, coffee shops, food courts and canteens.

This grant is the latest in the Covid-19 relief measures for hawkers that the National Environment Agency has provided over the past two years.

These relief measures have included at least 10 months of rental waivers and at least half a year of subsidies for table-cleaning and centralised dish-washing services.

Eligible hawkers also received up to $9,000 under the Self-employed Person Income Relief Scheme in 2020, and a one-off cash payout of $500 under the Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund last year.

Help provided to the hawkers over this period increased the retention of hawkers compared to pre-pandemic times, said Dr Khor.

"Our efforts have helped hawkers during these tough times. On average, 17 cooked food stallholders - or 0.3 per cent - terminated their leases each month between 2020 and 2021. This is lower than the monthly average of 28 terminations between 2017 to 2019," said the minister.

She also provided an update on measures meant to attract fresh talent to the ageing hawker trade.

Hawker development programmes, like the Incubation Stall Programme and Hawkers' Development Programme, have been introduced to get young hawkers to join the trade.

Over 40 new hawkers with a median age of 33 have joined through these programmes. The overall median age of hawkers is 60.

Currently, 11 aspiring hawkers are operating incubation stalls, with another 6 awaiting allocation of one, said Dr Khor.

The Hawker Succession Scheme (HSS) will also link retiring hawkers - who do not have succession plans but wish to pass on their businesses, skills and recipes - with aspiring hawkers.

Aspiring hawkers participating in the HSS will be assessed on their culinary skills and capacity to learn by a panel, before being paired up with suitable veteran hawkers.

The new hawkers will then undergo a three-month apprenticeship under the veterans before being evaluated on their ability to execute signature dishes.

If required, new hawkers may also continue their training for a further two months.

For their effort during the training period, veteran hawkers will receive a stipend of up to $5,500, said Dr Khor.

"This is but a token of appreciation and is not a measure of the effort that veterans have made to establish their clientele and refine their recipes.

"The HSS is not intended to be a commercial arrangement but is an option to help retiring veteran hawkers find suitable successors and preserve their culinary legacy for future patrons," said the minister.

She added that safeguards would be introduced to protect the interests of veteran hawkers, such as successors being mandated to serve the veteran hawkers' signature dishes and retain the stall names for 3 years.

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