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KF Seetoh criticizes NEA’s extended hawker centre closures, citing financial strain on vendors

Long-time hawker advocate KF Seetoh criticized the National Environment Agency’s policy to close some NEA-owned hawker centres for 3-5 months for spring cleaning and Repairs and Redecoration work. He highlighted that many hawkers would struggle financially without revenue for three months, while still having to cover ongoing expenses like mortgages and family needs.

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SINGAPORE: KF Seetoh, a renowned Singaporean food critic and founder of Makansutra, voiced strong concerns about the National Environment Agency’s decision to close down some NEA-owned hawker centres for 3-5 months to conduct spring cleaning and Repairs and Redecoration (R&R) work.

He argued that such extended closures would severely impact hawkers’ livelihoods, as they would be left without income during the shutdown period.

For instance, NEA earlier disclosed that the popular Old Airport Road Food Centre will be closed for four months from 1 June to 30 September, for extensive repairs and renovation, including repainting, furniture replacement, and upgrading of facilities.

During this period, NEA said they would provide rental remission, and waive service and conservancy charges for stallholders, and offer temporary stalls for those wishing to continue their business elsewhere.

NEA also confirmed that there will be no increase in stall rentals following the renovation.

A check on NEA’s website shows that, besides Old Airport Road Food Centre, five other NEA-owned hawker centres are also scheduled to close recently to undergo R&R works.

This includes Blk 89 Circuit Road (closure from 1 Apr- 30 Jun), Blk 347 Jurong East Ave 1 (15 Apr-14 Jul), Blk 11 Telok Blangah Crescent (2 May-30 Jun), Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre (13 May to 12 Aug) and Blk 527 Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 (3 Jun to 24 Oct).

“Heartless management and governance philosophy”

Mr Seetoh, renowned for his consistent advocacy for Singaporean hawkers, took to Facebook on 31 May to question the NEA’s rationale for such long closures, which could evidently affect the livelihood of hawkers at these centres.

“So really, what do you want them to do ah?”

“You shut the place down for 3, 4, 5 months, hold their rents and livelihoods and you exit stage left. Have them live off fresh air and handouts yet continue their home mortgage and family expenses?”

Mr Seetoh pointed out that many hawkers would not be able to survive financially for three months without revenue, while still needing to cover their ongoing expenses like mortgages and family needs.

“Pretty heartless management and governance philosophy, ” he criticised.

He also criticized the suggestion that hawkers could relocate to other vacant stalls around the country.

He highlighted the financial burden this would impose, as setting up in a new location could cost an additional $20,000 to $30,000.

Moreover, moving to a new stall means losing their regular customer base, and by the time they establish themselves in the new location, they would likely have to move back, resulting in wasted investment.

While acknowledging the necessity of repair and renewal work for hawker centres, Mr Seetoh suggested a more considerate approach.

“Instead of closing the centres for such a long continuous period, he recommended spreading out the work over a few weeks or a month at a time.”

This, he argued, would mitigate the financial strain on hawkers and demonstrate more compassionate management and governance.

MSE Minister: NEA will assist stallholders applying for temporary stalls during R&R works

The NEA manages 119 markets and hawker centres islandwide, regulating tenancies and public health aspects of these facilities.

In August 2023, Mr Louis Chua, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC, filed a Parliamentary question to the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment about the compensation provided to hawkers and market stallholders for MSE-owned and HDB-owned hawker centres and markets during closures for repairs, redecoration, or renovation works, and the basis for determining such compensation.

In a written reply, MSE Minister Grace Fu explained that hawker centres and markets typically undergo cyclical R&R every 6 to 8 years, usually closing for two to three months during these periods.

Minister Fu reiterated that during these closures, affected stallholders receive rental remission and have their service and conservancy charges waived. She added that the NEA will assist stallholders who wish to apply for temporary stalls in other hawker centres.

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What’s worse is that after months of closure, on opening, you find that nothing much has changed. The cracked tiles are still there, the stains and grime are still there. At most, the roof/beams have been given a wash and new coat of paint (which stinks – too cheapo to use low or no VOC paints).

Their cronies and kakis need these unnecessary tenders to survive too. Don’t so be cruel, think about all the ruling government’s cronies languishing without such tenders.

How are they going to afford driving their BMWs and Audis without revenues sourced from taxpayer monies? What about their country club memberships? How are they going to pay for them?

And gasp! If they need to downgrade from first-class to economy on their next holiday to Switzerland! Or maybe book a 4-star hotel instead of a 5-star resort. Think about the cronies!

Last edited 8 days ago by Blankslate

Because the planners and decision makers are comfortably enjoying their big fat pay cheques oblivious to the suffering on the ground, and regardless of the actual situations.

These scholarly decision makers force things through theory but in practice, reality is totally different from the books

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