Thank you policymakers, local hawker culture is dying because of you. *Hugs*
This is great. Just great.
There are so many ways to tell this story, I don’t even know where to start.
So, I’d just list all the possible headlines:
1. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan gave lousy advice about bidding for hawker stall, sabo-ed up-&-coming fishball noodles seller
2. Non-transparent, overly bureaucratic ways of judging hawker’s expertise killing off the willing & able
3. Hawkers bear brunt of inept policy-making, risk & burden of feeding the poor inexplicably transferred to them
4. Local food man KF Seetoh peeved at non-transparent ways of who gets to run hawker stalls at new hawker centres
So, now that you’re hot and bothered, here is some context before we proceed:
Douglas Ng (pictured above with chopsticks), 24, is a fishball noodles hawker-entrepreneur. He runs a stall at Golden Mile hawker centre.
He is an outspoken Gen-Y risk-taker who sees what he does as carrying the flame — a phenomenon which is very, very rare given Singapore’s Strawberry Generation.
And he is facing an insurmountable uphill battle.
Hawker centres are currently managed and run by the National Environment Agency (NEA).
But in 2012, the Hawker Centre Public Consultation Panel proposed having social enterprises manage new hawker centres.
NTUC Foodfare was appointed by the NEA to operate the Bukit Panjang hawker centre, which is the second of 20 new hawker centres to be managed by social enterprises and cooperatives.
Douglas submitted a bid to operate a stall there, which in all likelihood, he is not going to win. (So-called reasons as to why he failed will be revealed below. They are “so-called reasons” because they might cause you to tear your hair out in disbelief.)
As the operator, social enterprises and cooperatives have to set aside stalls for the lower income and special needs persons to set up low cost businesses — while making sure food sold are relatively cheap and relatively edible.
As an example of how costs and pricing are like: The first of 20 new hawker centres was opened at Ci Yuan Community Club in Hougang Avenue 9 in the second half of 2015. It is managed on a not-for-profit basis by Fei Siong Food Management — a social enterprise.
Stall holders at this hawker centre are required to offer at least two products that are priced at S$2.80 or lower. A Fei Siong spokesperson said all stallholders will pay a total of S$2,200 each month, including rental. (All the information so far, came from Channel News Asia, July 30.)
Long story short: Douglas first came into national consciousness in late July 2015 when he explained via a heartfelt/ strongly-worded Facebook post on how poor policy formulation in terms of selecting hawkers qualified to run a stall at one of these new social-enterprise-managed hawker centres is killing young hawkers like himself and the hawker legacy in Singapore in general.
And now this: The process to tender for stalls at the upcoming Bukit Panjang hawker centre has been called into question again by food man and champion of Singapore’s street food culture, KF Seetoh.
The main gripe: One-dimensional criterion, such as how many years of experience a hawker has, are used to evaluate which hawker gets to run a stall.
The argument can thus be summed up in one sentence: Of course Douglas is not going to win a bid as he doesn’t have the requisite years of experience! He is 24! And you didn’t even try his fishball noodles!
Check out this Facebook post by KF Seetoh: