Singapore

Help ongoing for Sungei Road vendors

With less than two months to go before the flea market in Sungei Road closes, 44 of the 200 vendors have a clearer picture of how they might be moving on, after accepting assistance from various government agencies.

Twenty-three of those vendors have submitted applications for lock-up hawker stalls, with 20 of them having been allocated stalls to date, at centres such as Chinatown Market, North Bridge Road Market and Food Centre and Upper Cross Street Market.

Three will be selling their goods at other flea markets occasionally.

Three of them are also being supported by Workforce Singapore (WSG) in their search for other jobs, while the remaining 15 have been granted ComCare assistance, the authorities said in an update yesterday on the fate of the vendors from Singapore’s last free hawking zone.

The flea market, which is about 80 years old, will be making way for future residential developments and its last day is July 10.

Over four days last month, officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Social and Family Development, the WSG and the Central Singapore Community Development Council fanned out in six teams to engage vendors individually on their needs. In their joint media release, officials said engagement was followed up with phone calls or home visits, with the vendors being receptive.

Ms Adeline Leong, director of NEA’s food and environmental hygiene department, said NEA set aside over 30 hawker stalls specifically for Sungei Road vendors to apply for, “although hawker stalls are in high demand in Singapore and are at near full occupancy”.

Aside from these, vendors may also apply for other stalls that are available in NEA’s monthly tenders.

About 50 Sungei Road vendors had indicated interest in taking up lock-up stalls at hawker centres.

NEA also identified seven flea markets close to the homes of about 20 Sungei Road vendors who have expressed interest in such stalls and is helping them in the take-up.

Ms Leong said: “We stand ready to help any Sungei Road Hawking Zone (SRHZ) user in getting a hawker stall or a flea market to continue their trade.”

Rag-and-bone man Lim Teck Nam, 70, is one of those helped. He ventured to a flea market at the Whampoa Community Club on Sunday with bags, necklaces, sunglasses and other knick- knacks to sell.

Mr Lim, who has two daughters, said he was pleased the flea market was near his home. But he added: “There’s more money to be made at Sungei Road. But I will leave it to fate and live one day at a time.”

The authorities also noted that about 70 vendors had indicated they did not require any assistance as they were able to support themselves or find other jobs.

The authorities said they are reaching out to the remaining vendors and that help is ongoing for all.

NEA’s Ms Leong said: “We understand that there are some users who have the means to support themselves after the closure of SRHZ and do not require any assistance. “Nonetheless, we will continue to keep in touch with them, and help them with the various assistance options should they wish to apply for them.”

Summarising the sentiment of some of his fellow vendors, Mr Koh Eng Khoon said those who have accepted hawker stalls “have their doubts on how their business will do” but are trying out these alternatives.

Mr Koh is the chairman of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods at Sungei Road flea market, which represents about 70 of the vendors.

The Housing Board will also be releasing five retail shops next month for which vendors can bid. It also has another 20 void-deck kiosks meant for use as mini-marts or convenience stores, and those who wish to switch to these trades can bid for them over the next three months.

Despite these offers from agencies, some vendors, like Mr Tan Meow Teck, 62, are still holding out hope for a new site.

The Government has made it clear that it will not offer an alternative site for the flea market.

hawkerNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCYMINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT (MSF)