Four new hawker centres in Canberra, Sengkang, Punggol, and Bukit Panjang will begin operating by the third quarter of 2022, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor announced during the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) Committee of Supply (COS) debate on Monday (Mar. 7).
In her speech, she also spoke of a number of young hawkers who have joined the industry and shared more about succession support for elderly hawkers.
New hawker centres opening in Q3 2022
Members of Parliament (MPs) Gan Thiam Poh and Don Wee had asked about the progress of the construction of new hawker centres.
Khor responded that while Covid-19 caused some delay, four new hawker centres — Bukit Canberra, Fernvale, One Punggol, and Senja hawker centres — will begin their operations by the third quarter of this year.
She had previously announced in the 2021 MSE COS debate that Bukit Canberra Hawker Centre and Fernvale Hawker Centre and Market were expected to open at the end of 2021 and Senja Hawker Centre was expected to open in early 2022.
Khor added that five more hawker centres in the construction stage will be progressively completed in the next few years, and that two others are in the planning and design stage.
There will also be a new hawker centre in Tampines town, she announced, adding that more details of the new centre will be shared in due course.
The new hawker centres will incorporate sustainability features; all of them will have food waste digesters, and some will have solar panels.
In addition to the new hawker centres, two redeveloped hawker centres will also begin operations this year.
Market Street Hawker Centre, which was previously located at Golden Shoe Carpark, will open from Apr. 1 on the second and third floors of the new CapitaSpring building, an integrated development that includes offices, retail spaces and serviced apartments.
Khor added that Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, which will replace the hawker centre at 1A/2A/3A Commonwealth Drive, to open from the fourth quarter of 2022.
Hawker Centres Transformation Programme (HTP)
Khor also provided updates on the Hawker Centres Transformation Programme (HTP) which had been announced in COS 2021 and aimed to “future-proof hawker centre infrastructure” and make hawker centres cleaner, more productive, and more sustainable.
She explained that while HTP will be applied to new and redeveloped hawker centres, it will also be piloted at two existing hawker centres despite the constraints of having limited floor space.
“I’m pleased to announce that we will consult stakeholders including hawkers’ associations, town councils, and advisors in 2022 to jointly develop the HTP pilot at Geylang Serai Market and Cheng San Market and Food Centre.
The proposed scope of works may include high volume low speed fans to improve ventilation, provisions to support flexible implementation of safe management measures such as quick deployment and removal of temporary access control, reconfiguration of tables and chairs to reduce crowding, and additional hand washing facilities to raise hygiene levels.”
Attracting and training new hawkers
Khor stated that there has been a “healthy demand” for hawker stalls, with high occupancy rates consistently averaging around 97 per cent at both existing and new hawker centres.
“NEA [National Environment Agency] has also been receiving inquiries from individuals who are keen to take up stalls at the new centres and the monthly tender for vacant stalls at existing centres have continued to attract a good number of bids.”
She shared that aspiring hawkers are being supported as they prepare for the trade, through programmes such as the Incubation Stall Programme (ISP), the Hawkers’ Development Programme (HDP), and other similar programmes.
Through these programmes, over 40 new hawkers have joined the hawker industry. The median age of these new hawkers is 33, almost half the overall median age of hawkers of 60 years old.
11 aspiring hawkers are currently operating incubation stalls, Khor said, while another six are waiting for the allocation of incubation stalls.
She specifically highlighted a few of these young hawkers, including:
- 31-year-old Priscilla Wong of Authentic Hong Kong Delights at Maxwell Food Centre;
- 27-year-old Lim Wei Keat, who runs Ah Keat Chicken Rice at Bukit Merah Central Food Centre;
- And 32-year-old Amber Pong of The Headless Baker at Ghim Moh Market, who even opened a second stall in July 02021 after completing her ISP and becoming a full-fledged hawker.
Succession planning to preserve hawkers’ culinary legacy
Khor also spoke more about Hawkers Succession Scheme (HSS) which was announced in 2021. HSS aims to help veteran hawkers, who are intending to retire but are unable to find suitable successors among their family members or relatives, to pass down their skills, recipes and hawker stalls to aspiring successors.
Responding to questions by Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Raj Joshua Thomas and MP Joan Pereira about the HSS, Khor explained that a 10-member independent advisory panel — consisting of six established hawkers and four culinary chefs, hawker centre operators, and culinary training partners — will work with NEA to review the HSS pilot.
“The panellists will help identify suitable veteran hawkers, assess aspiring successors’ readiness, and provide feedback to improve the programme.”
Under the pilot, aspiring hawkers will be assessed based on their culinary skills and capacity to learn before they are paired with veteran hawkers. Then, they will serve a three-month apprenticeship under the veteran hawkers.
They will be evaluated on their ability to execute the veteran hawkers’ signature dishes, Khor said, and when needed, the veteran hawkers may continue to mentor the successor for two additional months.
Veteran hawkers will receive a nominal stipend of S$5,500 to recognise the time and effort that they spent.
“This is but a token of appreciation and is not a measure of the effort that veterans have invested into establishing their clientele and refining their recipes,” Khor explained.
She added that HSS is not meant to be a commercial arrangement, but rather is a way to help retiring veteran hawkers to find suitable successors and “preserve their culinary legacy for future patrons”.
Safeguards will be introduced to protect the interests of veteran hawkers, such as requiring successors to serve the veteran hawkers’ signature dishes and retain their stall names for three years.
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Top photo via Sport Singapore.