Hawker rental prices remain in check: Amy Khor

Veteran chicken rice hawker Neo Cheng Leong, 57, imparting his cooking skills during a Hawker Fare Series class on May 29. The programme - where people can pick up skills from experienced hawkers - has been "overwhelmingly subscribed" since its launc
Veteran chicken rice hawker Neo Cheng Leong, 57, imparting his cooking skills during a Hawker Fare Series class on May 29. The programme - where people can pick up skills from experienced hawkers - has been "overwhelmingly subscribed" since its launch in May.ST FILE PHOTO

A recent bid of $10,000 for a hawker stall was an "exceptional case", said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament yesterday, stressing that hawker rental prices remain in check.

Noting that the high bidder terminated his tenancy even before starting operations, Dr Khor said that the average successful tender bid for cooked food stalls over the last three years has been $1,370 per month, with bids ranging from $1 to $4,888.

As of May 1, about 97 per cent of the more than 6,000 cooked food stalls in the hawker centres owned by the Government were occupied, consistent with the average occupancy rate for the past five years, she added.

Dr Khor said there are no grounds for reinstating an old policy of allocating vacant hawker stalls to those in financial hardship.

"Like any other self-employed person, a hawker can sustain his business successfully if he is disciplined and has the required skills and not simply because he is in need of a job," Dr Khor said.

"Those who are genuinely interested in the hawker trade are welcome to bid for any of the vacant stalls which the National Environment Agency (NEA) puts out for tender every month."

She was responding to questions from Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who asked if the NEA might consider allocating hawker stalls based on the prevailing rental rate to families receiving financial assistance and people who had been retrenched.

Dr Khor said that at her ministry's Committee of Supply debate last year, she had explained why the previous policy of allocating vacant hawker stalls to those in financial hardship was terminated in 1990.

As of May 1, about 97 per cent of the more than 6,000 cooked food stalls in the hawker centres owned by the Government were occupied, consistent with the average occupancy rate for the past five years.

The take-up rate had been consistently very low and most of the applicants had rejected the stalls offered to them, preferring to wait for a vacancy in more popular hawker centres.

She added that those who need financial or other types of employment assistance can seek help from the Ministry of Social and Family Development or the Workforce Singapore respectively.

The issue of how to keep the hawker trade going in Singapore has been in the spotlight of late, especially given the report submitted in February by the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee to the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources.

In Parliament, Dr Khor gave an update on some of the recommendations in the report.

The Hawker Fare Series - where people can pick up skills from veteran hawkers - was launched in May and has since been "overwhelmingly subscribed".

A hawker course with the Institute of Technical Education College West will allow aspiring hawkers to learn skills ranging from bidding for a hawker stall to running one.

There are also plans at the year end to introduce incubation stalls in some hawker centres, so people can see if they make the cut before deciding to enter the hawker trade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Hawker rental prices remain in check: Amy Khor'. Print Edition | Subscribe