Building more hawker centres is the easier part in any revamp of this iconic institution. A mindset change all-round is needed too. It's a "wok" in progress.
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 30 May 2013
IN THE past few months, Singapore's iconic hawker-centre culture has been the subject of unsettling news. A survey of 541 hawker stalls released last month showed that prices of several popular hawker dishes had gone up at many places across the island.
Most commonly, fishball noodle prices went up by 50 cents last year, compared to 2011; vegetable rice cost 40 cents more.
Chicken rice was not spared: the highest price for it went up from $4 to $4.50 and fewer stalls offered it at $2.50 last year compared to 2011.
Last month, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan warned that stalls may become vacant in future due to a hawker shortage. Despite a slew of government measures last year to lower rental costs, many entrants still found the going hard and gave up.
The Government used to set minimum rents for stalls. It scrapped this policy in March last year to lower costs for hawkers.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said that between March and December last year, 59 out of 112 cooked food stalls were rented out at below their previous minimum rents. Despite this, 13 or one-fifth of the cheaper stalls were returned to the agency within just six months of opening.
"The challenge is, will there be enough Singaporeans to do very hard work for very long hours?" said Dr Balakrishnan.