Govt looking to up support for social enterprises running hawker centres

The government is exploring ways to boost support to social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, which are set to manage hawker centres of the future.

This comes after a government-appointed hawker centre consultation panel recommended that social enterprises run hawker centres of the future, with the aims of giving the disadvantaged jobs, and providing the community with affordable food.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan shared this at the official launch of Kampung @ Simpang Bedok, Singapore’s first hawker centre to be run by a social enterprise.

In February last year, social enterprise Best of Asia took over the management of the centre.

Some of the changes include the use of space to allow patrons to shop, or just hang out. The management plans weekly flea markets and band gigs to draw in the crowd.

Deirdre Murugasu, leader of Best of Asia said: “All along, there are many Singaporeans who are unable to actually expand even if they are very good hawkers, there’s no succession planning. This place is a place for them to all try out. Make it, don’t make it, we’re there to help them.”

There are 32 stalls at the centre. Best of Asia offers various forms of help to stall holders – including charging them partial rent.

Full rentals range between S$1,500 and S$4,000, based on individual assessments of stall holders.

Dr Balakrishnan said: “This is a very important new start and we’ll have to see how this develops over the years to come. The key thing is for it to remain viable, for it to provide good livelihood to people who may be disadvantaged or who may otherwise have an opportunity to start their own businesses. And also for good-hearted people with business ideas and imagination to help others to create a multi-disciplinary team to make this place viable, attractive and hopefully a model for the future.”

Hawker centres run by social enterprises can help boost community ties.

Kasmah Sukor, a cook at Pitstop @ Haniff said: “I see that we are working together, helping each other. Everybody tries to support each other in any way we can. That is why I feel that we have the kampung spirit to help out and work. That is what I like about this place.”

The government hopes that the 10 new hawker centres in the next five years would be run by social enterprises.

It will look into ways to best support such a model, to ensure long-term sustainability and viability.

Source: CNA