Photo of Amy Khor from Facebook

When questioned by hawker stall owners what action is the government going to take against profiteering tactics by hawker centre operators, Senior Minister of State Amy Khor paid lips service saying that the National Environment Agency (NEA) will do a “stocktake” and “take actions against errant operators”.

However not a single operator is “errant” according to the millionaire PAP Minister.

The profiteering tactics of “social enterprise” food court operators took headlines when a hawker at Jurong West Hawker Center complained that he had to pay up to S$900 a month for tray-return service under the government’s “Smart Nation” model. The hawker center court is operated by Hawker Management, under the government’s 2011 “social enterprise model” which claimed to offer customers hawker food at “affordable prices”.

This is however a guise to profit from the hawkers, as the government agency NEA now collects a flat fee from the privately-owned operators, who in turn charge any fees they like against the hawkers. The profits of these operators who styled themselves as “non-profit”, “socially conscious” and other grandiose titles are however not declared.

Under unfair rental contract written by the operators, hawker stall owners were made to pay up to thousands of dollars a month in miscellaneous fees like coins-exchanging services, tray-return service, spot-checks, cleaning services and other “Smart Nation” services previously not obligatory under government contracts. This is on top of rental fees, which could cost up to S$4,000 a month, and not any lesser than the usual neighbourhood kopitiams.

Minister Amy Khor told state media reporters that she “welcome the feedback” so she “can continue to do better”.