Mr Yeo Hiang Meng,
President of FMAS
Toh, Ambassador to UNESCO
Ladies and Gentlemen
It’s a pleasure to
join you at the very first Hawkers’ Seminar organised by The Federation of Merchants’ Associations, Singapore, or FMAS. I am happy to see so many hawkers here today– thank
you for taking the time from running your businesses to be part of this Seminar.
theme for this inaugural seminar is “Hawker Trade: Moving With The Times”. To
me, the most meaningful part of this seminar is that it is organised by hawkers
for hawkers. Through this
seminar, we hope to rally hawkers together to share best practices and learn
new ideas, service models and technology that will benefit both new and veteran
hawkers. It is also a platform for us to recognise those in the hawker
community who have made significant contributions to the trade.
Hawker culture is an integral part of our Singapore identity
Our hawker centres
and hawker culture are a key part of Singaporean life. Hawker centres are where
many of us go to for delicious and affordable hawker food. Talk to any
Singaporean on the streets, and they will be able to name you a list of hawker centres
they visit regularly for their favourite Chicken Rice, Char Kway Teow, Roti
Prata, Nasi Lemak and more. That’s the reason why we had Peranakan Sayang
earlier to remind us of all the wonderful and delicious hawker food that we
crave, especially when we go overseas. Over the years, our hawker centres have
become community dining rooms, where people from all walks of life come
together to bond over their love of good local food.
There would be no
hawker centres or hawker culture without our hawkers. It is a tough trade that
requires rising early, and long hours behind a hot stove. What has become
Singapore’s trademark hawker food, is the result of years of refining and
perfecting recipes. We thank you for building this defining heritage that all
Singaporeans are proud of.
To celebrate our hawker culture, and
the contributions of our hawkers, we submitted our nomination to inscribe hawker
culture onto the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural
Heritage of Humanity earlier this year. We are now awaiting the outcome of our
nomination, which will be announced at the end of next year. Many hawkers I met
told me that they are supportive of the UNESCO nomination. What struck me even
more was how many of you shared your hawker stories with pride - such as
mastering the perfect plate of fried hokkien mee, or preserving a family recipe
that has been passed down many generations.
Supporting our hawkers
But many of you have also told me about the challenges
that you face, such as the costs of running a stall, manpower constraints, how
your customer’s tastes have changed over the years, and the increasing competition
from food delivery services and centralised kitchens.
These are not
challenges faced by just hawkers, but the entire F&B industry. While they
won’t go away overnight, I assure you that the government will work closely
with you to manage these challenges.
In the past year, we
have increased support to help hawkers raise productivity and cope with manpower
and cost pressures. At the hawker centre level, we have increased the subsidies
under the Productive Hawker Centre Grant from 2 years to 4 years. This grant
subsidises up to 70% of the operating costs of productivity measures such as
the automated tray return and centralised dishwashing systems in the first two
years. The operating cost of the centralised dishwashing system will also be subsidised at 50% and 30% in the third and
fourth year respectively. In
addition, individual hawkers can benefit from the Hawkers’ Productivity Grant,
which co-funds the purchase of kitchen automation equipment up to 80%, subject
to a cap of $5,000 over three years from 2017 to 2020. You can tap on the fund to
buy equipment such as food processors, automatic cooker, automatic noodle boiler and sugar cane
press machine to help reduce food preparation and cooking time, and to overcome
some manpower constraints. So far, 673 applications with a total value of about
$1.4 million have been approved.
We have also appointed NETS to help roll out a unified e-payment
solution for hawker centres, as well as coffee shops and industrial canteens.
This solution helps hawkers to complement their cash transactions by providing
customers the option to pay from a range of widely-used e-payment schemes. This
is also convenient for the hawkers as they need not have to deal with multiple
e-payment schemes. With more customers using e-payment, there is less hassle
for hawkers to maintain a daily cash float.
the Hawker Trade
this year, we set up a hawker workgroup to look into ways to sustain our hawker
trade. The workgroup comprises hawkers, stall assistants, and hawker culture advocates. They have been meeting
regularly over the past few months, discussing how to modernise and
upskill the hawker trade, build on our current programmes, and tap on the
experience of veteran hawkers to help aspiring hawkers.
The workgroup will be
submitting their detailed recommendations early next year and one of their key
ideas is to develop a new Hawkers’ Development Programme. NEA and SkillsFuture
Singapore are working together on this programme which will be made available
to both existing and aspiring hawkers.
Under the Programme, NEA
will bring together training providers to offer classes in practical areas. We
have selected these areas based on past feedback from hawkers on the support
they need. These include cooking skills, menu design, pricing strategy, stall
layout and social media marketing. We are also working on making subsidies
available, so that these classes are affordable for hawkers. We will be
announcing more details towards the end of this year, and we welcome other
feedback on courses which you will find useful.
Hawkers’ Development Programme will also include apprenticeship and incubation
components. We are engaging veteran hawkers to mentor aspiring hawkers through
an on-the-job training programme at their stalls. This would allow aspiring
hawkers to learn the ropes of the trade from these veteran hawkers. I am glad to share that 10 veteran hawkers have volunteered to be
potential mentors when we pilot this programme.
Programme will build on existing efforts to attract and support aspiring
hawkers to enter the hawker trade. In 2017, based on the recommendation of the
HC 3.0 Committee, NEA and PA jointly introduced the Hawker Fare Series where
veteran hawkers share their culinary expertise with aspiring hawkers. Almost
270 participants have attended 26 classes so far. NEA and the Institute of
Technical Education also launched a Hawker Business Management course in 2017 to
equip aspiring hawkers with the skills and knowledge to run a small hawker
business. The response has been good, with almost 290 participants attending 13
also launched the Incubation Stall Programme (ISP) in 2018 to provide eligible
aspiring hawkers with support to take up incubation stalls to start their
hawker businesses. Under the ISP, NEA provides incubation stall holders a 50%
rental rebate for a period of 9 months. To date, we have received over 60
applications and allocated incubation stalls to 20 aspiring hawkers. I am happy to share that two NEA incubation stallholders who are
completing the incubation programme, have indicated their interest to convert
their incubation stalls into permanent ones. They are Mr Kwan Yee Liang who is selling handmade noodle at Block 163
Bukit Merah Central, and Ms Michelle Yee who is selling Hakka Thunder Tea Rice
and Yong Tau Foo at Chinatown Complex. I have tried their dishes and would strongly
recommend you to try them too. Do visit and support them.
Based on our experience with the Incubation Stall Programme and the
feedback we have received. I am pleased to announce that NEA will further
enhance the Programme with immediate effect. Currently, new ISP stallholders
receive 50% rental rebate for nine months. NEA will now allow the ISP
stallholder to operate at the stall for another 6 months with a 25% rental
rebate. This means an effective rental rebate of 40% over a 15-month period,
and this will help to strengthen our support for the ISP stallholders as they stabilise
their businesses and transit to a permanent stall. NEA will also offer ISP stallholders the option to continue their
business at the existing stall where they have built up their clientele.
Together, these initiatives form a substantial support package to help our
aspiring hawkers to enter and succeed in the hawker trade.
Everyone has a part to play in preserving and sustaining our hawker
hawker culture belongs to all of us, and it will take our collective efforts to
sustain the hawker trade. This includes the young hawkers who have the courage
and passion to venture into the trade, the veteran hawkers who have worked hard
to hone their skills to cook up our favourite hawker fare, and Singaporeans who
patronise our hawkers with their families and friends.
is important that we recognise those in our hawker community who are actively contributing
to the hawker trade, and encourage more to step forward. This is why we will
present awards of appreciation and commendation today. This includes the 6
veteran hawkers who have generously contributed their time to share their culinary
expertise with participants of the Hawker Fare Series. For example, Mr Neo Cheng Leong has been teaching his chicken rice recipe since May
2017, and has even mentored one of the participants who took up an NEA
incubation stall. We also have Madam Hajjah, whose classes on roti prata and
curry have been very well-received by many participants. They truly embody the spirit of today’s seminar,
which is about the camaraderie in the community, and initiatives “by hawkers,
To sustain our hawker trade, we need all
hands on deck, and even more stakeholders to come onboard. This is why we have
been reaching out to various stakeholders to tap on new ideas and leverage
their expertise to improve our hawker trade. Our work group on Sustaining
Hawker Trade is a good example. Besides the Hawkers’ Development Programme, the
work group has been discussing about initiatives to better profile the hawker
trade, and to share “practical tips” from hawker masters for new entrants. They
are also discussing how to help hawkers leverage new trends and technology to
grow their business; and to work with educational institutions to incorporate
hawker culture as a part of our culinary curriculum.
stakeholders include the Hawker Associations, whom we will also recognise today
for their strong support of various hawker centre initiatives, and operators at
the new Socially-conscious Enterprise Hawker Centres who have run various
programmes for new hawkers. I am happy to share that after much hard work and
support from their mentors, 13 new hawkers at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre and another
2 from the Hawker Centre at Our Tampines Hub, all of whom started as incubation
stallholders, have now become permanent hawkers. We are also recognising these young promising hawkers, who have
a median age of 35.
To conclude, I would like to thank FMAS for organising this Hawkers’ Seminar.
This is a great example of ground-up efforts to promote the hawker culture in
Singapore, share ideas on how hawkers can improve their businesses, and to
strengthen the community spirit within our hawker community. I wish all of you a fruitful seminar today.
I will next say a few words in Mandarin.