Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Food For Thought

The eatery at Teban Gardens was one of the few places where you can buy a plate of chicken or char siew rice for $2. Not exactly a balanced meal, since the only vegetable is a few slices of thin cucumber, typical hawker fare to tide over the hunger pangs until time for a more substantial meal at home or elsewhere. With such paltry ingredients, the profit margin should be quite handsome, except for the overheads. Without the airconditioning, large screen TVs and pleasant ambiance, the humble hawker may not have the volume to make ends meet.The national panel chaired by “social entrepreneur” Elim Chew for new hawker centres suggested integrating community space and childcare centres as part of the draw factor. Problem is, the cost of these extras will probably end up in the price of the meal. Don't forget, the guys in charge always remind us that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Once upon a time, hawkers were given licences on the basis they need to make a living in spite of their lack of education or better paying skills. For the rest of us, they provide a source of cheap meals. Those who can afford the XO Sauce know where else to head to. And good riddance to them.

Along the way, “entrepreneurs” have come into the picture, making money by subletting, or turning hawker outlets into restaurant chains. Food courts now boast exotic cuisine, rivalling the seafood prices at tourist trap Newton Circus. 

Here's the worry factor: NTUC Foodfare CEO Perry Ong, who is also in the same panel chaired by Ms Chew, is already eyeing the profit opportunity, “if the Government feels we could potentially add value or possibly co-run it, we will be happy to consider it.” NTUC was originally mandated as a co-operative to provide affordable groceries for the general population. Nowadays, penny pinching housewives head for Giant or Sheng Siong to stretch their dollar. Unless you are keen on fresh air flown oysters from New Zealand on sale at upmarket NTUC Finest, which aims at “bringing the fine life closer to shoppers”. You can probably pick up the XO Sauce there.


  1. Dring CNY, we have many friends who return from overseas and we caught up with them. Among them, 3 separate people have made the same claims = wah..why hawker food so expensive now huh? Everything is $6-$8. Where are the $4 food?

  2. Different different same same lah.

    Boss of Sheng Shiong LHC is PAP/Treasurer member of Marsiling CC. You know who are they connected to or not? Left pocket to Right pocket, still the same family pocket wah!

    They go low class, so NTUC can upgrade upper middle-class. After killing all papa-mama shops and control of food chain, the only thing that you are filling up is their post-IPO pockets.

  3. So this is what they call 'hawkerprenuership'.
    Old wine in new bottle, somebody has to pay for the fancy packaging, new branding & etc.
    Those green sustainable ideas are all good and well, and I'm willing to wedge $1000 with bookies that my plate of char kway teow will cost me $12 now. Give it 5 years.

  4. hmm

    Is that a preamble to get singaporeans to eat and socialise more outside so that HDB can build smaller flats?

  5. NTUC already has too many hands in too many pies. Why do we need to templatesize these whole model and turn them into some food + mall service for the profits of another property developer or landlord?

    These should be run by locals for local residents.
    It is simple and works very well. Singaporeans should support the last bastion of papa-mama stalls instead of killing them off. When a union can't even fight for minimal wages for its workers, what do you think it will take away from you?

  6. Thanks for writing. When I heard the proposal over the radio, it sounded strange. Thanks for pointing them out. Hawker centre is a place for the lesser mortal to make a decent living or get a decent meal at an affordable price. What for waste time setting a committee ? Hopefully they are not paid. Feel very sad that tax payers' money are spent at all the wrong places.

  7. Reminds me that my taxi fare used to be under $8. Now from changi to jurong can cost $80. Better they stick to selling their oysters and taxi-ing their Finest Customers. Really don't wish to see bottle of XO sauce become the price of XO liquor.

  8. Demented In Hougang2/28/2012 10:26 PM

    //Don't forget, the guys in charge always remind us that there is no such thing as a free lunch.//

    Tattler, the only free lunches these days are in Hougang. Especially when you have dementia and depression-over-no-MP-looking-after you. Even got misee too. I see many white angels walking around looking after me. Am I delusional? They keep asking me to mark "x" on a piece of paper on a logo. But since i got dementia, i always forget which one...how?

  9. Did they even suggest that our hawker food must be value for money ?

    How can it remain cheap when the trend is for their rental to keep rising ? Especially when our Govt themselves does not want to miss out a piece of the action where there is more money to be make like renting out hawker lots to the highest bidder ?

    They say it is illegal to lease out the hawker lots to someone else but if one were to look at those numerous hawker lots at Chinatown being operated by PRCs, it makes one wonder how did they manage to get so many hawker licences in recent years, with all the help needed from our authorities ?

  10. This is what happens when most of the land in Singapore (including your HDB flats) is actually owned by the government.

    If and when the ideas and creativity dries up.

    Use the monopolistic power of landlord to make money.

    All HDB flats actually belongs to HDB.
    Read your HDB title deed if you don't believe me.

    Since all HDB flats belong to HDB, what then is the actual home ownership rate in Singapore?

    Never have so many;
    Been blinded by so few;
    For so long.

  11. ntuc has a hand in every corner when $$ is to be had, 1st the supermarket, then taxi, followed by food court, funeral parlor, pharmacy, dentistry....

  12. The government just don't go and raise the rents of hawkers is enough already, simple as that!

    Why Get So Many People Involved?

  13. Thanks to the 60.1% idiots, prepare for more air-con "hawker centres" to be operated by Food Junction, Koufu, NTUC, Kopitiam, Food Republic.

    It is the RENTAL that causes your food to be expensive. Not just food, but also all other goods & services.

    The original concept and implementation of hawker centres can only be seen in schools and polytechnics today. There, the food stalls can offer low prices because the schools and poly rent out the stalls to the hawkers at very low rentals. I.E. MOE is playing the part that NEA used to play by offering subsidised stall rentals.

    And there is always long waiting queue of people wanting to rent such school & poly food stalls, even though they have to charge low food prices. Because they know with such low rentals, they will still be able to earn reasonable profits.

  14. The problem here is we have greedy pigs who just want more money...and if they legally steal / rob it from the poor/lower income group...why not...

    This shows us the type of people in charge...who don't mind literally taking using blood, sacrifice and sweat monies from others for their own further gains...


  15. At the rate they are going, more people will take train to go JB and eat liao.
    I just want simple, no frills but great tasty food in clean food. Why so complicated?

  16. "Hawkers should also charge extra for non-biodegradable items such as straws and disposable cutleries."

    If that's their idea of green hawker, they can forget it. All the hidden costs are coming up now. Define "value for money".

  17. We all can see it is the rental and staff costs that kill most hawkers. While we may not be able to control staff cost, certainly government can help to manage rental. To do that, go back to the original method of leasing out directly to them. Don't take short cut by letting it to one company who then lease out the space to hawkers. Surely they will jack up the price.

  18. I know of a hawker centre in a shop house. When the owner (usually the Kopi seller) changed hand, stall holders were told that rental will go up by 100%. End result three quarter of the stall holders moved out. The new stalls had to charged more because the rent went double.