Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap asked the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth how does the People’s Association ensure that stall rentals at trade fairs and bazaars that it manages remain affordable to stall holders.
The Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai): Mr Speaker, trade fairs and bazaars which are organised on state lands are done through an open tender process to appoint a professional fair operator to manage and to operate the event. Whilst the People’s Association (PA) does not run the trade fair or bazaar, it sets the relevant conditions and specifications for the successful operator to ensure that the event is held in a suitable, conducive and safe environment for stall operators and patrons alike.
This is done through the terms of an open tender, which include ensuring the adequate supply of utilities and amenities and the provision of suitable logistical support.
A successful tenderer will have to comply with the terms of the tender. The successful tenderer then also sets the relevant rental rates for the stalls, having regard to factors such as the duration and location of the event and the type of business based on market rates. An entity or individual who intends to bid for a stall will know in advance the rental rates which are proposed to be charged as well as the other details on which the trade fair or bazaar is operated. They can then assess for themselves whether to make a bid.
In the case of the currently ongoing Bazaar Raya Geylang Serai and Hari Raya Light Up, which I will call “the bazaar”, organised by PA since 2014, the above framework that I have just set out would apply. There were several bids for the operator and the tender was then awarded to a consortium of operators. In considering the tender, price is one factor, amongst others. In the case of the bazaar, the award did not go to the bidder with the highest price.
Since 2019, Wisma Geylang Serai (WGS) has taken over the organising of the bazaar and is responsible for the overall place-making and programming at the bazaar, which has traditionally been held in the month of Ramadan, leading up to Hari Raya.
Wisma Geylang Serai curates the programming at the precinct, including the bazaar. The curation of the programming includes the Light Up, concerts, cooking and talk shows and other programmes – all of which add buzz and festivity to the occasion. It also generates additional footfall to the bazaar. In addition, the Singapore Tourism Board also promotes the bazaar as a destination for locals and tourists.
This year’s bazaar, at 36 days, is the longest festive bazaar on record. In total, almost 700 stalls were taken up. Of this, a substantial number of stall holders had previously either operated a stall at the bazaar in a previous year or at some other trade fairs organised by PA or the Merchants’ Association. A fair number of the stalls at this year’s bazaar also took up more than one stall at the bazaar.
In an effort to support home-based businesses, a section of the bazaar is reserved for them where they are given stalls at a low-cost rental, which is at $55 per day. Various community groups, such as NKF, 4PM and also Jamiyah Singapore, are provided with complimentary space at no charge.
Mr Speaker: Mr Faisal Abdul Manap.
Mr Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap (Aljunied): I thank the Minister. Sir, I have one supplementary question that pertains to the Geylang Serai bazaar. The Geylang Serai bazaar has gained great public interest and attention. There were two different reports mentioning two different things regarding the affordability of the rent.
One reported that some business owners claimed that by the end of the second or third week of operating, they were already speculating that they may not be able to earn profit or recover their business costs; whereas the other reported the opposite.
In view of this, I just want to know whether PA would consider conducting a survey or study to find out: (a) how many businesses face losses and also the range of losses, (b) the number of businesses breaking even, (c) the number of businesses that make profit; and, more importantly, to make this finding public so as to provide a proper closure in addressing the public concerns on this issue.
Mr Edwin Tong Chun Fai: Sir, as I explained, the bazaar, like in previous cases, both in Geylang Serai as well as other similar bazaars or trade fairs, is managed by a professional operator. They come in, there is a tender. The open tender, which is conducted, reflects the market price. So, this is the market price that is reflected in an open tender. Parties come in, they decide what the market price would be and they make a bid for that.
As I had mentioned, the point is not to get the bidder with the highest price but the bidder with the best expertise, best proposal.
In particular, for a bazaar the size and scale of Geylang Serai, which is not just the bazaar itself but in conjunction with the festive occasion, the Ramadan Light Up and so on, it is important to get the programming, as well as the way in which the bazaar will be operated in a safe way for both the stall holders as well as the patrons right. That is why we looked for a professional operator as well as one who has the experience and able to provide the environment.
To the point that Mr Faisal makes, the operator publishes the rates that it wants to charge. So, no bidder comes in without knowing what the rates would be. And that is an important consideration. They have to make their own calculations. That is why I mentioned the market price. So, the bidder knows in advance what the price would be and they decide.
To Mr Faisal’s point, whilst we do not require all the stall holders to declare their profits or otherwise to PA, we have some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some of the stall holders some time around the midway point had recouped their rental expenses. Others perhaps might take a longer period of time.
It is really a question of which stalls, what their offerings are, how popular they might be and so on. In any typical bazaar or market, there will always be a variety and always be a differential in terms of the takings of the stalls that are there. I think you cannot expect all to make money and all to be at the same level of profit-taking.
But the point to be made is that they know in advance what the cost would be.
The other point which I made in my answer earlier is that a fair number of these are not inexperienced stall holders. They have come from previous trade fairs and other bazaars. In fact, a fair number, quite a substantial number, not only came from previous years’ Geylang Serai bazaar – so they know what it would be like – but they also came and made bids for multiple stalls in this bazaar. Again, that is something they have to factor into their own consideration when it comes to market price, what they think they can afford, what they think they can sell and whether they can realise and recoup.
For Wisma Geylang Serai, which operates the entire event, their role, of course, encompasses the bazaar and that is in the hands of the professional operator. But in addition to that, whatever is tendered, a substantial amount then goes back into the Light Up, the organisation of the event itself and ensuring that the programming, which I mentioned earlier, drives footfall to the event, and also, which is PA’s and Wisma Geylang Serai’s main agenda, ensuring that the festive occasion is celebrated appropriately.
When you look at that collectively, that is the way in which this bazaar has been run previously, had been run in this year.
Of course, we will continue to take soundings from not just the stall operators but also the consortium operator, the patrons and people who deal with the security and other aspects of this bazaar, to learn from it so that in subsequent years, it will be better.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
21 April 2023