Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at The SG Hawker Seminar at Our Tampines Hub
Mr Yeo Hiang Meng, President of FMAS
Mr Goh Sin Tek, Editor of Lianhe Wanbao, Singapore Press Holdings
Representatives and Friends from the Hawker Community
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 It's a pleasure to join all of you at the second run of the SG Hawker Seminar organised by The Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore (FMAS) and Lianhe Wanbao. I am glad that many of our hawkers are here today, with some attending in person and others via Zoom.
2 2020 was a tough year for all of us. Despite the challenges due to COVID-19, our hawkers have pressed on with their business, with some adapting to new opportunities. The Government has supported hawkers in the past year, such as through rental waivers and subsidies for cleaning services during the Circuit Breaker period, as well as grants to encourage hawkers to bring their businesses online.
3 Thankfully, we ended 2020 on a positive note, with the successful inscription of Singapore's Hawker Culture on UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I congratulate all our hawkers once again for this achievement. This inscription is the result of years of dedication, resilience and hard work by all our hawkers, past and present.
4 The theme for today's seminar, "Celebrating Hawker Culture. Infusing Tradition with Innovation", is an appropriate one. Keeping Hawker Culture thriving in Singapore does not mean doing the same things in the same way. Instead, we will have to adapt to the times by doing the same things in different ways, especially in a post-COVID world.
Digitalising to Diversify Revenue Streams and Improve Business Processes
5 One key area of innovation is in digitalising the hawker trade. During the Circuit Breaker period, the hawker community came together to create new ways to reach out to customers, such as putting menus online and arranging for food delivery services. The National Environment Agency (NEA) also introduced a one-time funding of $500 to help hawkers defray the costs of onboarding fees for registered food delivery services, and worked with the operators in the Socially-Conscious Enterprise Hawker Centres (SEHCs) to help hawkers to adopt food delivery services.
6 All these efforts helped to cushion the initial impact of no dining-in at our hawker centres during the Circuit Breaker period. Today, many more hawkers have incorporated food delivery services as part of their business models. Over 1,300 hawkers benefitted from NEA's one-time funding to offset delivery costs. I hope that more hawkers will join the bandwagon, as the 'food delivery culture' is likely here to stay even post-COVID-19.
7 Nonetheless, we recognise that adopting technological solutions is not easy, especially for some of our older hawkers. To support them in their digitalisation journey, NEA worked with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to launch a new pilot module titled 'Adapt to Change – Digitalisation for Hawkers' under the Hawkers' Development Programme (or HDP for short). Delivered by Nanyang Polytechnic-Asian Culinary Institute, the module will allow hawkers to learn about using e-payments, establishing their presence on social media platforms and food delivery apps to expand their business options.
8 Our hawkers operating in Amoy Street Food Centre and Golden Mile Food Centre were the first to attend the inaugural runs in December last year. I heard that most of them found the module very useful. I would like to encourage more hawkers to take up these training opportunities and use digital solutions to grow their businesses.
Building A Pipeline of New Hawkers to Sustain the Hawker Trade
9 To safeguard our Hawker Culture, we must continue to attract new talents to enter the hawker trade. The Government has been working closely with the Workgroup on Sustaining the Hawker Trade to co-develop ideas to help both new and existing hawkers manage business challenges and thrive in the trade. Building on the Workgroup's early recommendations, the HDP was launched in January last year to provide aspiring and existing hawkers with classroom training on business and culinary skills. Aspiring hawkers are also mentored by experienced hawkers to learn first-hand how to run a hawker business. In the past six months, we have seen strong interest in the programme. 41 participants who have completed their apprenticeship are now progressively moving on to the final stage of the programme, the incubation stage.
10 Apart from the HDP, NEA has been supporting aspiring hawkers through the Incubation Stall Programme or ISP, which offers subsidised rentals over 15 months. The Socially-Conscious Enterprises operators at the new hawker centres have also put in place similar programmes to facilitate and support new entrants. As of 1 December 2020, 85 aspiring hawkers have participated in these incubation programmes. 28 of them, with a median age of 35 years old, have graduated and have joined the trade. Another 14 are currently operating their incubation stalls.
11 I recently visited a few of these ISP stallholders, and I am happy to share that they are serving up delicious food, and steadily building up their customer base. One of our invited speakers today is Khamal of Mad Bros SG, who sells halal Japanese ramen in Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre. Khamal recently decided to become a full-fledged hawker after completing the ISP. He shared with me that the ISP was an opportunity to test out his recipes as he established the foundation of his business, and he hopes to open a restaurant one day. Khamal represents a new generation of hawkers who are contributing to the diversity of our hawker culture and community.
12 Because of the encouraging response towards the HDP, we will increase the number of training places under the HDP, from the initial 100 to 300 over the next two years. With this increase, we will also set aside more stalls for those who wish to proceed to ISP upon completing HDP. In the next few years, we will gradually expand the number of incubation stalls offered under the ISP up to 80 stalls, a four-fold increase from the current 20 stalls.
13 With growing recognition and appreciation of hawker fare, setting up a hawker stall can also be a gateway into the F&B sector. We have seen some of our hawkers going on to gain global recognition as MICHELIN Plate or Bib Gourmand Hawker Stalls, while others have expanded their businesses or opened restaurants. I hope that the UNESCO inscription will inspire budding F&B entrepreneurs to join the hawker trade and contribute to Singapore's rich food heritage. To ease these budding F&B entrepreneurs' entry into the trade, NEA and SSG will work with Temasek Polytechnic to launch a new track under the HDP, the Work-Study Post-Diploma (Certificatein Hawkerpreneurship). The 12-month programme will be open to all recent graduates from Polytechnics and ITE interested in joining the trade. It will offer participants a longer, more structured curriculum to equip them with the relevant skills to run a hawker business or enter the F&B trade.
14 Participants will undergo two months of classroom-based training. They will then move onto a four-month apprenticeship with experienced hawkers, followed by a six-month mentorship, where they will continue to be supported by their mentors while running their own incubation stalls. Both hawker mentors and apprentices will receive a monthly stipend of $500 and $1000 respectively, which is consistent with the monthly stipend amounts under the existing HDP track. We will support about 50 aspiring hawkers over three years and plan to welcome the first batch of participants in March this year.
Recognising the Contributions of Our Hawkers
15 Our hawkers are the heart of Singapore's Hawker Culture. Through the years, our hawkers have evolved, overcome adversity and coped with numerous challenges – from the early resettlement of street hawkers, to overcoming public health threats such as SARS and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Generations of Singaporeans have grown up with hawker food, reflecting the profound impact our hawkers have on our lives.
16 To celebrate our Hawker Culture and commend the efforts of our hawkers, FMAS has partnered Lianhe Wanbao to organise the inaugural Singapore Hawkers Awards today. There are three categories, namely the Promising New Hawker Award, Enterprising Hawker Award and Hawker Heritage Award. These awards recognise the hawkers who have shown great potential in their new businesses, employed innovative methods to grow their business, and safeguarded culinary traditions over many years. Congratulations to all the winners who will be receiving their awards shortly, as well as those who were nominated. The Singapore Hawkers Awards are a recognition of your dedication to your craft, and I hope it inspires the hawker community to keep striving for success.
Safeguarding Our Hawker Culture
17 While our hawkers and our favourite hawker dishes are key parts of Singapore's Hawker Culture, safeguarding our Hawker Culture goes beyond ensuring that hawkers continue to provide delicious hawker fare. Our hawker centres, which are our Community Dining Rooms where Singaporeans from all walks of life come together to share our common love of local food is another important component of our hawker culture. Indeed, members of the public have also shared that keeping our hawker centres clean, should be part of our mainstream hawker culture.
18 While we have made progress in keeping the pandemic under control, we must continue to be watchful and keep our community safe. As we dine out with our friends and family at hawker centres, we should take extra care to ensure that the environment is safe and clean, for public health and also to enhance our dining experience.
19 Food remnants, used crockery and tissues left on tables contribute to bird nuisance at our hawker centres, and pose a public health risk to patrons, cleaners and our hawkers. We can all do our part by returning our used crockery and trays, and keeping our tables clean as a courtesy to the next diner. Adopting a self-service concept will also lessen the workload of our cleaners. These are small but important contributions that each of us can make to keep our hawker centres safe, clean and conducive for all.
20 To conclude, I thank FMAS and Lianhe Wanbao for jointly organising this year's SG Hawker Seminar. It will take the collective efforts of the hawker community, hawker advocates and Singaporeans to ensure that the legacy of our Hawker Culture can be sustained for future generations. Let us continue to work closely together to achieve this goal.
21 Thank you. I will now say a few words in Mandarin.
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