sda hawker centre

F&B Sector: Government Must Not Irresponsibly Pass the Cost of Minimum Wage to Consumers

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his fellow PAP parliamentarians have warned Singaporeans that cost of living will rise because a minimum wage has been implemented for Singaporean workers.

One area where we will feel the pinch most, according to them, is in the F&B sector, and the reason given is costs for businesses will increase with higher wages.

This is the same excuse the government has given time and again for opening the floodgates to cheap foreign labour imports.

The move has, for over 15 years now, depressed Singaporeans’ salaries and lulled businesses into a complacency bubble where they see no need to innovate to raise productivity.

The SDA believes that the government too has been lulled into a complacency bubble.

Let’s just take the F&B sector for example.

Today, the NEA and town councils (which are mostly PAP-run) together manage over 80 percent of the hawker centres in Singapore.

Singapore’s biggest workers’ “union” NTUC, which is supposed to be the workers’ representative in the tripartite alliance involving the government, is the biggest operator of food courts in Singapore.

Before crying “price increase”, shouldn’t public agencies be giving Singaporeans the breakdown of costs for the running of hawker centres and food courts?

How much of the cost is borne by hawkers, such that they have to increase prices?

Since hawker centres and food courts are largely entrusted to managing agents, shouldn’t there be greater transparency in the selection process of these managing agents, and initiatives they are taking to improve innovation to reduce costs on the whole?

Wasn’t the purpose of appointing managing agents to improve efficiency and reduce costs, so that there is less burden on hawkers and consumers?

The government owes Singaporeans an explanation.

These are important questions which affect Common Singaporeans, since hawker centres and food courts serve mainly the working and middle class.

Especially since it holds a monopoly over our only sources of affordable makan.

Renowned local foodie KF Setoh has, for the longest time, taken it upon himself to stand up for hawkers and consumers against unfair practices.

It is time that more of us do the same.

Desmond Lim
Singapore Democratic Alliance

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