The most gratifying news today in the front page of ST is about a proposed change in the philosophy of running hawker centres by a public panel headed by entrepreneur Elim Chew. The principle behind the thinking is that as a national institution providing basic needs to the people, it cannot go along like other institutions to be run by market forces where profiteering is the main motivating factor. And hawker centre customers are the average Singaporeans that cannot afford to keep paying ever higher and higher food cost.
The problem of the current system is that hawker stalls are changing hands for hundreds of thousands or being sublet for substantial profits. Also, some private developers are ever eager to grab a hawker centre to ‘upgrade’ it and then you know the story, the prices will have to be double. And the final victims of these transactions are the average Singaporeans. All the profiteering and high cost will be passed down to the customers. And as the prices of these hawker stalls are rising, the hawkers are getting marginal profits despite of it while the poor customers keep paying more for less.
For those who believe blindly about market forces and the fictitious manipulated market forces, I am sure they will be crying foul. How can the govt interfere with the market forces? The customers must pay the price as so determined by the market.
Now, would the govt really accept the recommendations by the public panel? There is hope as the 18 member panel was set up by Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister himself. So would Vivian finally do something good for the people and fight this case in Parliament against those who believe in fictitious market forces and profiteering?