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Cow Beh Cow Bu

What is Being Done to Ease the Exorbitant Rent Situation at Kopitiams?

RONALD LEE: In just the past 4 years, this has happened because of government policies and greedy kopitiam landlords:

-increase cost for hawkers by making centralisation of cleaning services a new unofficial mainstay standard (cue Vivian’s Social Enterprise Hawker Centres)
-make consumers return their own trays, allowing landlords to cut down on number of cleaners
-give subsidies from our tax dollars to landlords for ill-used machinery such as “automated” tray return stations
-no action on price controls, so landlords can raise rents as they please
-hawkers raise prices because of all the extra costs, and consumers cow beh cow bu
-hawkers get squeezed more and pass on costs to consumers, and everyone cow beh cow bu except the government and greedy landlords

In the most high profile incident in recent times, hawkers at 10 out of 14 stalls at Yishun St 81 gave their new Chang Cheng landlord the collective middle finger and shut their stores.

The new owner of the kopitiam wanted to charge them upwards of S$10,000 a month to rent a stall.

Before this, there was a similar incidence at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 of mass walkout because of high rents.

And before that, there was the whole fracas and muted protest where even local makan guru KF Seetoh showed just how much (in the thousands) hawkers had to pay for the newly-implemented centralised cleaning scheme.

Their costs just keep going up.

But, rentals at hawker centres do not directly affect food prices, if you believe Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor and the Institute of Policy Studies.

National Development Minister Desmond Lee says the ministry is “monitoring”, but how much more eye power must we endure before some proper action is taken?

The MND and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment are a big joke when it comes to tending to the priorities of Singaporeans concerning hawker centres and kopitiams.

If you recall, for at least 4 years straight before the whole tray-return thing was implemented the biggest complaint of hawker centre patrons was dirty toilets, according to the nationwide surveys.

Yet, the environment ministry forces through the implementation of the tray return system while not addressing the biggest or our concerns – toilet cleanliness.

The ministry even wasted so much tax dollars subsidising automated tray return machines, putting up signage, producing TV commercials, installing loudspeakers at hawker centres, and paying those deadweight “tray return ambassadors” to remind us to return trays.

That money could have been spent put to better use demanding that businesses improve hawker centre public toilets and employ more cleaners to rotate between table and toilet cleaning duties.

But of course, according to the government, there’s nothing wrong with Koufu founder Pang Lim giving his brother a huge dishwashing and table-cleaning contract for Koufu-run food centres to his brother.

Definitely not because they’re both grassroots leaders.

All’s good, man.

Nope, our priorities come last because it’s not in line with what the ministry wants.

When is the government going to pay attention to what Singaporeans want?

After it gets thoroughly routed in the next General Election?

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