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KF Seetoh decries Government’s budget meals initiative as ‘abusive’ towards hawkers

Singaporean food critic KF Seetoh slammed the government’s S$3.50 budget meals initiative as “abusive and stifling,” accusing it of bullying hawkers. He argues that high stall rental bidding and the pressure to sell cheap meals without fair compensation threaten hawkers’ financial survival despite efforts to offer affordable food options.

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SINGAPORE: Singaporean food critic and founder of Makansutra KF Seetoh criticized the government’s latest budget meals initiative as “abusive and stifling,” accusing it of bullying hawkers.

Despite the government’s intention to provide affordable food options for residents, Mr Seetoh argued that hawkers often face high market prices to bid for stalls and are pressured to sell cheap meals without adequate compensation, making it difficult to survive financially.

On 1 July, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) announced that 330 coffee shops in HDB estates would offer budget meals and accept Community Development Council (CDC) vouchers by the end of the month. This includes 180 coffee shops under nine private chain operators.

HDB and EnterpriseSG stated they would continue to engage with operators of privately owned HDB coffee shops to encourage them to provide budget meal options, “while considering their business sustainability.”

The private coffee shop chains participating in this initiative are Badaling, Broadway, De Tian, Chang Cheng, FoodFare Kopitiam, Kimly, Kim San Leng, Koufu, and Select. Of the 180 coffee shops, 120 are privately owned, representing nearly 30 percent of privately owned coffee shops in HDB estates.

The remaining 60 are rental coffee shops that will now voluntarily offer budget meals ahead of their lease renewal.

Budget meals include lunch or dinner options priced at S$3.50 (US$2.60) and below, with drinks priced at S$1.20 and below.

According to the joint press release, around 150 rental HDB coffee shops currently offer over 1,000 budget meals and drinks.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling stated in a Facebook post that the government would continue to support heartland merchants and work closely with F&B businesses to ensure that “Singaporeans will continue to enjoy affordable meal options.”

However, in a Facebook post on Saturday (6 July), Mr. Seetoh criticized the latest initiative as “bullying hawkers.”

He condemned the government’s approach to managing hawkers through social enterprise hawker management companies, arguing that these companies impose a series of unfair rules, charges, and fines on hawkers, forcing them to sell meals at low prices, such as S$3, instead of genuinely helping them.

“It’s a joke if that’s your idea of lowering cost of living in pay more and more Singapore, at the expense of the viability and survival of these hawkers.”

He reiterated his criticism of the hawker stall bidding practice, noting that hawkers pay market prices to bid for a stall, sometimes as high as S$7,000 per month, only to be cornered into selling a S$3.50 main dish by the government, without adequate compensation.

“What did they do to deserve this. Why do you want to interfere in the journey of these humble entry level food business entrepreneurs and hamper creativity?” Mr Seetoh criticised.

He also noted that the budget meal initiative is an ineffective way to lower the cost of living, suggesting that the government should focus on other areas, such as limiting MRT trip costs, to make a real impact.

Expressing his disappointment, Mr Seetoh criticized the government’s handling of the Work Group on Sustainable Hawker Trade, initiated in 2020 to support the UNESCO Hawker Culture bid.

He acknowledged the initial effort of gathering industry experts, commentators, and hawkers to create sustainable practices but criticized the lack of substantial implementation.

Despite the high-profile launch, Mr Seetoh claimed that no significant measures were put into practice. Promised initiatives, such as an industry platform for networking, a review of manpower policies for hawker assistants, and an online guided journey for new hawkers, were not implemented.

Instead of supportive measures, Mr Seetoh argued that the government introduced more restrictive and punitive rules and increased operational costs for hawkers.

He warned that Singapore’s recognition by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage is at risk.

“I urge UNESCO to overlook the current failings and extend the recognition. But if things remain status quo, I won’t blame you if you removed Singapore from the Unesco Intangible Culture listing in 2026.”

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Perhaps the government should consider exempting all food ingredients necessary for the preparation of budget meals from being charged GST. SG Government, do your part and stop passing the buck to Singaporean hawkers and paying lip service.

These are ad hoc and not permanent solutions. Like free shutter bus and budget meals, they can be withdrawn giving some lame reasons after GE.

Not unexpectedly, miws take the opportunity to milk these so called solutions for their promotion and publicity that they care.

What do you think?

Overlords of the Hawker … Then should ask Govt. and Corp to NOT set high rental and grocery food price. Then meals price can go down. All want pocket full … Then pretend to stand at hawker side. Who will be most affected. The Fourth group 1,3 and 2,4. Tactical formation … No?!?

Low Yen Ling thinks this is a win? A piece of chicken or fish should cost $3.00. Rice is at least $1.20. Vegetable cost $1.20. She should set up a stall herself before pressuring hawkers to sell food at $3.50.Election gimmicks to make the Public think that the PAP is acting in the interest of the poor and elderly. This is rubbing salt on the hawkers as well as the consumers. It is terrible to treat people in this manner. It is pervasive.

Sorry to repeat post. MANY Singaporeans, esp some posters here, are technically wrong, or dare say their In depth thinking is quite misguided. NTUC is lauded, promoted, emphasized by the PAP Administration, as a labour Union, widely ACCEPTED UNSUSPECTINGLY by I would say almost ALL Singaporeans. This is Wholely FACTUALLY, PRACTICALLY, FALSE, a BIG LIE. NTUC is a Union IN NAME only. NTUC is a POLITICAL Arm, and OUTREACH of PAP, disguised, crouched (in Ultra PAP Hypocricy). Has NTUC fought against any errant omployers of note? In Germany, Union members sit on some Companies Boards. Last, what’s this PAP Tripartite… Read more »

Sometimes I think it is truly futile urging the G to prioritise the predicament of Singaporeans facing a host of difficulties starting with the high cost of living. I am not too sure if our voices will ever be heard. A good example is the living wage – I seriously doubt if the G would even bother to consider it. Reason being, the PAP elites arrogantly believe they have the monopoly of all the answers to the problems Singaporeans face. Mind you these are problems that emanated from questionable policies and acts by the G in the first place. So,… Read more »

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Last edited 3 days ago by Blankslate

I agree if the hawkers need to sell their food at certain prices to cover their cost eg. High rental, don’t force them to sell at 3.50. Else they will have to find ways to compensate for their cost, in the end, it is the consumers who suffers.

s2

Last edited 3 days ago by Blankslate

s3

Last edited 3 days ago by Blankslate

Sure or not…that these hawkers did not receive any monetary subsidies or other incentives from the gov to offer this kind of budget priced meals?
….didnt their unions speak up for them???
I wonder why?

It’s the correct step!!
Coz they cannot and dare not bully their cronies, rite? Rite? Rite?

Budget meals are none but ‘forcing’ hawkers to subside the ‘needy’. When I was working in the CC, our brilliant ‘grassroots leader’ will organize, special food discount coupons for the needy. How those discount coupons come about? We will try to ‘harass’ the hawker to participate in the food coupons project. For those agree to participate, we will paste a notice on their stall. Then, we will print and cut those discount coupons and give it to the needy. The hawkers are the one offering subsidies. Most of them participates because we harassed them a lot to participate or they… Read more »

Lim Tean recently posted an article on TREmeritus, … confirming that good ‘ol SillyPore is ranked second only to Monaco, under “Highest Cost of Living Worldwide” !!! With such worldwide standing, … one can no longer spout nonsense like “punching above it’s weight” and “the little red dot” in any positive context !!! Hawkers are no different to hdb~ers or 9 to 5~ers or food deliver~ers, … whom are all feeling the pinch !!! There is only one specific group of waste~ers, … whom are to blame !!! If you’ve suffered and endured enough, … do not tick their box… Read more »

If I were Lawrence Wong, I would get rid of budget meals as it is a reflection of how poorly the PAP government is managing costs of living issues. As has been stated, providing budget meals is not the solution. What is needed is a permanent solution that plagues the hawker business in particular. There are 3 main contributors to the cost of running his hawker business: 1) rents – this is really for the G to act on 2) staff – we cannot begrudge staff from earning a decent salary but productivity must improve 3) ingredients – I still… Read more »

Budget meals, the hawkers choot lui. Budget stall rentals, the govt loogi lui. Whick option do you think a “what’s wrong with collecting more money” govt will choose?

Isn’t this legal extortion, be it directly or indirectly by someone knowingly or unknowingly? The hawker will have to charge other middle income customers more per meal to cover for this budget meal shortfall? No? It was already highlighted in Parliament that how much more they will have to charge other full fare paying public transport passengers if more concession is provided to seniors during off peak timing. So in fact the full fare paying passengers are paying more than they should be to subsidise these concession senior passengers. Not Pappy. Isn’t this similar to the budget meal concept? Do… Read more »

Forcing a price-ceiling on the producer of goods and services, instead of the rent-seekers only incentivises producers to eventually leave the market. Ever seen empty shelves in socialist and communist countries? Or even in the recent years in places such as Venezuela? That is the end result of price ceilings on producers. They simply stop producing. Nobody is willing to work for free. As many have explained time and time again. Once the current generation of hawkers retire, few will step up to replace them. The only thing this will encourage is food deserts, all at taxpayer expense. To the… Read more »

Now Lawless Wong has a new hobby besides playing guitar. Like his ex boss (or perhaps still boss), he hops merrily around to take welfies with this group, that group and splash on sh*t times.

No real solution to solve skyrocking cost of living but wayang wth cronies for the coming big day to stay power and collect millions.

PAP has demonstrated many times ages ago, just to grab power, manipulate People of SG, the preserve Hegemony, able to give ownself freedom to perhaps, ‘even eliminate lives’ – anything is POSSIBLE, is PERMISSINLE.

Any one find flaws with PAP, to not hate them, to appreciate all their chicken wings, to agree with PAP Ministers ENJOYING Emperor lives – sorry, good luck.

Pray, fast, put on sack cloth, and yet, it’s still only hopeful, our future generations still around, NOT OVER WEHELMED by Foreign Trash

It is not only abusive to the hawkers but also citizens. Handouts are insulting to us. Please declare a living wage and start paying every Singaporean who is 65years and above $500/- a month with free medical and transportation. All Canadian citizens enjoy this plus a living wage at $1800/- a month. The retired in Canada travel . Our retirees are getting budget food ! The reason being is the elected government knows that they will be voted out if they don’t address the long term needs of Citizens.

We love our land and we want it to be free from foreigners and immigrants. We want to have free speech and we want to be free from oppression, dictators, traitors and colonial dogs. We want it to be free, to be free. Merdeka.

Pay themselves OBSCENE Millions of Dollars, described themselves as serving people, serving SG, hammer, nail and destroy opposition so hard, heartless, by using State Power and State moneys, bully tons of anti PAP nationalistic voices depriving people of comstitional benefits and rights – THIS IS CLASSIC OBOXIOUS PAP.

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