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    Aug 19, 2015

    40% of hawkers pay below $400 in rent

    MORE than eight in 10 hawkers here pay less than $1,500 in monthly rent for their stalls. In fact, four in 10 pay less than $400, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday in Parliament.

    This was a result of government policies that helped keep rental costs for hawkers low, he added.

    Dr Balakrishnan was responding to questions from Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin on how the National Environment Agency (NEA) plans to help hawkers deal with the rising costs of ingredients and manpower.

    He also highlighted how NTUC Foodfare and Fei Siong Food Management, which NEA has appointed to manage several hawker centres here, will help manage rising ingredient costs for hawkers through bulk-purchasing.

    Fei Siong is running a hawker centre in Hougang Avenue 9 through a social enterprise subsidiary.

    On the issue of rising manpower costs in the form of wages for cleaners and assistants, Dr Balakrishnan said these hikes are "well-justified and well-deserved" for them.

    "I think I stand with the support of all of you that we were right in imposing progressive wages to increase the wages and employment conditions for cleaners," he said. "I would also expect members of the House to support wage increases for hawker assistants."

    The Environment Ministry had said earlier this year that ingredients made up the largest cost component for hawkers, at about 60 per cent.

    Manpower made up the second-largest cost at 17 per cent while rentals made up just 12 per cent, utilities 9 per cent, and table cleaning and other costs, 3 per cent.

    Dr Balakrishnan said: "I have told (the social enterprises) very clearly that my main objective is to help keep food prices affordable and bring down the cost of raw ingredients for hawkers. Everything else is an extra."

    He added that looking after the interests of hawkers, employers and the public was a "balancing act", saying: "Let's take a data-driven approach, watch the food prices, quality and nutrition, and let's calibrate the policy along the way."