When I was young, the struggle for most hawkers was about earning a living while escaping from environment officers.
Because in the 1960 and 70s, most hawkers didn’t have the necessary licence to sell food!
Today, the struggle is higher rents due to increased privatisation of hawker centres, and rising costs due to rising government taxes.
These costs are brought on by government policies.
One policy, the privatisation of hawker centres, has seen the government push for Social Enterprise Hawker Centres (SEHCs) run by private operators.
The median monthly rent across SEHCs is $2000 but, as hawkers have complained, they pay around $4000 a month factoring in all the other fees charged by private operators.
In comparison, 85% of hawkers renting stalls at hawker centres run by the National environment Agency (NEA) pay monthly rents below $1500.
Their extra miscellaneous fees for cleaning services etc are a fraction of that paid by hawkers at privately-run hawker centres.
Another problem is rising costs brought about by tax increases such as the 30 percent water tax hike.
How are hawkers expected to keep costs low, while being squeezed tighter and tighter by government policies?
These issues have been highlighted many times since at least 2018, with many hawkers airing their grievances publicly.
However, since there is little opposition, the government has bulldozed its plans through without regard for hawkers’ livelihoods.
And now, it wants to encourage young Singaporeans to become hawkers?
A hawker is a respectable occupation, but how are young Singaporeans going to bear the costs during the initial stage of setting up their stalls?
Even after struggling through that, how will they earn enough to maintain a decent standard of living, build a home, and raise a family?
The hard work of Singaporean hawkers over more than 50 years has seen Singapore’s hawker culture recognised on the UNESCO cultural heritage list.
But government policies are threatening to kill our hawker culture over the next five decades.
Hawkers provide Singaporeans with affordable food, which is needed the most by low to middle income households feeling the squeeze from rising cost of living.
The SDA encourages the government to bring hawker centres back under the NEA umbrella, and to implement fair taxation policies to help hawkers survive and thrive, and continue to serve Singaporeans.
The government should clean up the mess that it got itself into, and not put further burden on hawkers and Singaporeans.
SDA Chairman’s Office