Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) what data has the Ministry obtained regarding the quantitative impact on earnings faced by hawkers due to inflation in electricity and ingredient prices and restrictions on dining-in; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider additional support measures to cushion the impact on (i) hawkers and (ii) low-income groups who rely on affordable hawker food.
The Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment (Dr Amy Khor Lean Suan) (for the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment): Some hawkers have shared that they have been affected by the rising prices of electricity and key ingredients, such as cooking oil and eggs, caused by the disruption of global supply chains and food production and, of course, the Ukraine war. Hawkers were also affected by the restrictions on dining-in due to COVID-19. However, the footfall of hawker centres has been improving following the easing of Safe Management Measures and is expected to further improve with more employees returning to their workplaces and the opening up of Singapore to travel from overseas under the Vaccinated Travel Framework.
We do not keep track of hawkers’ earnings as they are self-employed persons. Nevertheless, we are constantly monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the global situation on hawkers and have been providing various forms of support. To mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the Government provided hawkers with 10 months of rental waiver and six months of subsidies for table-cleaning and centralised dishwashing services in 2020 and 2021, as well as a one-off cash payout of $500 under the Market and Hawker Centre Relief Fund in 2021.
As announced at Budget 2022, the Government will be providing further support under the Small Business Recovery Grant this year. SFA-licensed operators and stallholders in hawker centres, markets, coffeeshops, food courts and canteens will receive $1,000 for each local employee receiving mandatory CPF contributions, capped at $10,000. Those without local employees will receive a flat payout of $1,000. Eligible hawkers will be notified by IRAS from June 2022 onwards. This will provide some support to our hawkers during this period of inflationary pressure. Hawkers who continue to face financial difficulties can approach the National Environment Agency or MSF for assistance.
The Government recognises the impact of rising costs on low-income families. Families who need support for their basic living expenses can approach MSF’s Social Service Offices (SSOs). The SSOs will continue to exercise flexibility when providing ComCare assistance to help households cope with their daily living expenses, such as food costs. The five Community Development Councils (CDCs) will also be launching the CDC Vouchers Scheme again. This is one of the schemes announced at Budget 2022 to support Singaporean families in managing their daily expenses under the 2022 Household Support Package. Each Singaporean household will receive $100 worth of CDC vouchers this year. The Government will continue to monitor and review the impact of inflationary pressures on businesses’ operating costs and citizens’ cost of living. The Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Trade and Industry will also be delivering a Joint Ministerial Statement on inflation and business costs at this Parliament Sitting.
Mr Speaker: Mr Leon Perera. Make it short.
Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I thank the Senior Minister of State for her responses. Just a few supplementary questions. The hawkers who operate in privately-run hawker centres usually cannot get the benefit of rental waivers and other levers of control the Government has. Would the Government look more on the problems they face from rising food costs and see how that can be addressed?
Secondly, would the Government consider the suggestion I made in my Adjournment Motion as one form of benefit to lower-income families to create a food voucher so that they can use at hawker centres as a way of delivering targeted assistance that also benefits the hawkers and does not require them to keep food prices down?
Lastly, given the spike in food prices because of geopolitical events and so on, and these will take some time to stabilise, will the Government consider a freezing of upward revisions to the rentals at least for a certain period of time until the situation stabilises?
Dr Amy Khor Lean Suan: With regard to the last question about rental revision, let me share that we had frozen rental revision for a period when we had the dining restrictions. Actually, when the leases come up for review, the majority – in fact, for the upcoming review from April to June – 96% of the hawker stalls that are up for rental review are either going to experience no rental revision or actually a rental reduction. In fact, 58% of those are actually rental reduction and only about 6% or so, or 14 stalls, would have a rental revision upwards, but that is moderated. So, any rental revision upwards is moderated, capped at about $300, whereas a rental reduction is between $20 and $2,400-odd. [Please refer to “Clarification by Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment”, Official Report, 4 April 2022, Vol 95, Issue No 60, Corrections by Written Statements section.]
So, in fact, with rental revisions, actually many of the hawkers are assisted because they are revised to assess market rent which takes into account current market conditions.
With regard to the private sector stall holders, in fact, the Small Business Recovery Grant would also apply to them if they have employees under CPF contributions, for instance. And in fact, if they are in HDB rental units and so on, there were previously also help given in terms of rental revisions or waivers.
What was the Member’s second question, I am sorry.
Mr Leon Perera: Food vouchers for the lower-income to spend at hawker centres.
Dr Amy Khor Lean Suan: The CDC Voucher can be used at participating hawker stalls and coffee shops and so on. Indeed, that is one. Many of us, in our own constituencies, provide our own food vouchers or grocery vouchers.
Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
4 April 2022