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Hawkerpreneur, simi sai is this?

First it was the hawker centres as a cultural heritage and now a diploma in “hawkerpreneurship”. There are many things wrong in this framing of what was a social economic response during difficult economic environment when jobs were scarce. Let me, as a son of hawker correct the vision before those ministers and members of parliament with humble beginning muddled it further.

In the 60s when job was scarce and when most the population were not highly educated (those of my parents’ generation mostly had only a few years of primary school education if any at all), to survive in a city, where agriculture land were depleted to facilitate commerce, industries and to house a growing population, hawkering was to many the only option.

Hawkering was to sell one’s wares on the streets to a population with very little disposable income. Price of your goods must be cheap because the average worker earned very little (about $150 a month). To be a street vendor, the first challenge was to decide what is your trade. Mostly, people did not have the resources to obtain goods to peddle. So, grandmother culinary skill became the most important “intellectual property” that one can offer. Hawkering is often the only option as there was no need for consideration of rent. The same phenomenon as squatting because one cannot afford the rent.

Below is the story of my humble beginning. I declare that I have no intention to stand for election and do not have to colour my curriculum vitae:

I moved into a second generation “one-room” flat in Toa Payoh at Lorong 5 in 1968. My mother had to resort to hawkering to put food on the table and send 4 children to school. Fortunately for us, mother learned how to make “soon kueh” from grandma. The one room flat became the production floor. At 10, I became a door-to-door sales manager dragging and managing my younger sister who is two years younger than me. Next to our block of flats was a huge carpark. It was mostly empty as not many people could afford to drive then.

My mother was enterprising enough to find a plank and two stools to create a make-shift stall selling breakfast and packaged lunch for workers on their way to work. Make shift was important because it limited the damage and loss when “tee-gu” came to raid. It is because we paid no rent, we were able to offer soon kueh at 15 cent each. With 30% being cost of the supplies and utilities, 70% of the sales from the best soon kueh in Toa Payoh went to put food on the table for a family of 8 and send six children to school. At first there were only a few stalls, within weeks it became the market of the precinct.

Toa Payoh estate was newly established and few markets were built. A number for cooked food stalls were built within the precinct. My mother was given the choice of renting a unit. It was like striking lottery. Rent of the unit was affordable ($25 per month, work out to be about 3% of our total sales). The unit came with water and gas piped-in and sufficient space (about 25 square metre) for the production of “soon kueh”. We could even acquire an electric mortar to ensure the quality of rice milk (basic ingredient of soon kueh) and reduce cost of production.

This is the birth of “hawker centre” in Singapore. Toa Payoh then was a new HDB township, most of the residents were young families, the higher end flats were the three-room flats (about 60 square metre). Salaries were low. Singapore was positioned as a cheap labour and fast industrializing city.

Hawker food is not a cultural alfresco lifestyle but an essential cheap source of meal for everyone. If two stalls were selling the same thing and one of them priced its food at 5 cents more, it would certainly suffer from a drop in business. We were able to sell “soon kueh” at 15 cent a piece. Rent did go up but it was gradual over many years. I remember we were able to keep price at 20 cents even when rent went up multiple folds to $155. We did not aspire to drive a Mercedes but were able to buy a motor cycle with a side wagon, so that we could source for supplies at wholesale price to reduce cost. Our electric mortar became handy as it could provide grinding as a side service.

Fast forward 50 years, today one can rent space at the coffee shop or bid for a vacant lot in the hawker centre, typically the rent is between $3,000 to $6,000 a month. In the HDB heartland, if one is to set up a “char kway teow” stall, your price for each plate would be about $3.50 because most of your customer would not want to pay beyond that price (many of them could not afford). Just do the maths, the first 40 plates of your “char kway teow” would go to rent. Typically, 35% to 50% of sales goes to rent. About another 30% goes to supplies and utilities. The labour component only harness about 20% to 30%. This is the elephant in the room, not entrepreneurship or diploma.

If our labour can provide higher yield, there is no shortage of takers and more pride and innovations will ensue. A $1000 rebate in rent goes straight into the bottom line of the hawker, this itself would be a game changer.

Honestly, ask yourself: who would want to send their children to the polytechnic and ITE for a diploma in “hawkerprenuership”, only to slog for 12 to 14 hours a day to make less than $1500 a month???

 

Tan Tee Seng

 

 

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39 Responses to “Hawkerpreneur, simi sai is this?”

  • Tremendous:

    The more they market hawkypreneur, the more they subject themselves to public disgrace. Is it Temasik poly that is offering that stupid diploma ?

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  • xoxo:

    Hawkerpreneurship?
    Diploma? Might as well make it a degree at NTU OR SMU???

    Guess THEY have to appoint that CHAR KWAY TEOW stall-holder as ADJUNCT PROFESSOR?

    Later,THEY may even have *HOOKER-preneurship* diploma?
    Guess the mama-san can be SENIOR TUTOR???
    The pimp gets appointed as Professor?

    Like that say,your *granny* no scared,she can apply for professorship in CARDBOARD COLLECTING?

    PAPple looking down on own sgs?

    Think its time to kick a$$e$ out!

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  • Diploma can eat:

    Like to see some hawkers display their diplomas (like the A,B,C NEA ratings for cleanliness) If the food not nice, customers can tear the diploma to pieces and EAT it!

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  • MBA in ...:

    Not long later, we can expect MBA in Paper Business, for tissue paper sellers.

    MOE ministers please return all your pays. MOE wasted and wasting our young in 13 years of useless “education”. No wonder MOE keep on talking about lifelong learning. Whatever they teach is useless and graduate immediately must go for more learning at NTUC and other training centres, which similarly DON’t lead to jobs.

    More training, more training,…

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  • Useless:

    They have no more idea to create better jobs, period. Not worth a single cent.

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  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    Probably, these hawkerprenuership managers will ask hawkers to go upmarket creating an untenable situation. One good example is Foodfare Clementi Mall. Price higher than most, food mediocre, lots of empty stalls.

    I don’t think these diploma in hawkering will teach you how to cook great food. Recipes are jealously guarded. So I guess it’s just another MBA majoring in street food peddling. Like the writer saod, do your sums first. It’s the rent that’s killer. Guess who’s the beneficiary?

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  • Pap has the mandate:

    Stinkapore PAP Government had not made any progression for Stinkaporeans who voted for them, instead, it has regressed. The PAP Government has run out of ideas on value-added jobs. The PAP Ministers can only justify their own million dollars salaries is by repackaging, rehashing or sugarcoat the role of being a Hawker with a Diploma. Remember, the bus driver changed into bus captain….LOL..at the end of the day is the same shit, just a useless title and qualification.

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  • VTO:

    And they paid themselves multimillions dollars;

    Vote the PAPi out, no choice.

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  • Ahsoon:

    Ah long course also coming soon.

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  • Singaporeans aspiration?:

    The tertiary educated are encouraged to be hawkers.
    Who are doing the “good” jobs?
    Singaporeans have difficulty buying condo.
    Who are buying and living in condo?
    Is that why PAP is reducing land sales and HDB flat supply?
    Developers are laughing to the banks together with the banks the past decade, buy government land and enbloc at high price, sell to the public at even higher prices!
    The anointed PM in waiting has the gall to say the government is monitoring the market but nothing is done. Mah Boh Tan said that, Khaw Boon Wan, the black horse Lawrence Wong said that, and what happened?
    CityDev is facing problem in investment in China, yet …
    DBS is lowering savings interest rate like OCBC and UOB, and 49% of its customers earn $2999 or less. It can afford to spend billions to bail out an almost bankrupt bank in India, like GIC bailing out Merill Lynch, UBS, Citibank. Who is MAS chief, Singapore regulator? Yet DBS share price is roaring.
    Is history going to repeat? PAP to bail out DBS, gifting POSB at a song in the Asian Financial Crisis?
    This is Singapore, sad very sad.

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  • Dont trust PAP:

    Maybe Grab can help too, get its graduate drivers and delivery partners to join the Poly Hawker course.
    PAP can also announce that Grab is training staff to switch to better opportunity jobs.
    What did Lawrence Wong do the housing issue and rising prices as MND Minister?
    Anyway, he is the PM blue eyes boy.
    He gave information to the PM regarding the PM’s siblings moves on their dispute with the PM.
    What else? It is top secret just like Ho Ching’s pay, how much reserves we have, and where are they?

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  • Vampirical Renteur Economy:

    What the author have said is all very true and indisputable.

    We are now living in an era of renteur economy whereby rent takes up more than 30% of our income, leaving little to make ends meet. It’s a truly vampirical state when rent is not controlled by the relevant authorities.

    Rent of public housing units are going north even when this pandemic is not over yet, let alone hawker stalls that are managed by vampirical corporate entities led by astronomically-paid CEO?

    Every precinct of 10 blocks of flats should have a hawker centre and wet market within walking distance. This would help reduce the rent and save heartlanders’ transport costs from having to travel to and fro. It also prevent overcrowding and frustrating long queues, especially so when the safe-distancing are in practice.

    The relevant authority(s) should by now do a thorough planning in making every heartland a liveable and affordable place for its residents.

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  • Vampirical Renteur Economy:

    What the author has said is all very true and indisputable.

    We are now living in an era of renteur economy whereby rent takes up more than 30% of our income, leaving little to make ends meet. It’s a truly vampirical state when rent is not controlled by the relevant authorities.

    Rent of public housing units are going north even when this pandemic is not over yet, let alone hawker stalls that are managed by vampirical corporate entities led by astronomically-paid CEO?

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  • John Grosse:

    What about plumbing, electrical, car repair, etc.
    These are done by foreign personal.

    We had a Technical School. What happened to it?

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  • oxygen:

    @ Tan TS,
    PAPpynomics are now sending a subtle unmistakable message to native peasants, asking all Sinkies to go “jat sai” (eat sh*t) henceforth.

    How?

    LOWER YOUR ASPIRATIONS/EXPECTATION, be satisfied with crumbs left on the table, cheaper foreigners are coming in abundance, to replace you.

    Swiss standards of living and asset enhancement politics PROMISES were just WONDERFUL EFFECTIVE VOTE CATCHERS.

    Most Sinkies were, and still is to a large extent, like stupid greedy maggots attracted to a dead economic corpse.

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  • Executioner says luv his job:

    Many countries have UNIQUE hawker culture, not just sg.

    SG has unique hawker culture but hawker culture is not proprietary to sg.
    Do you all get it
    ?

    Hawker is simply streer food seller.

    Which country has no street food seller?

    Sg hawker culture is unique because of sgreans. Hawker concept is not unique to sg. Its all over the world.

    This also means every country has a unique hawker culture because nation the citizens have a unique culture or people.

    Yes singaporeans love their hawker centers. But every country love their hawker centers. You love it because your stomach hungry. Food is tasty to every country in the world. Tasty street foods exist in every country.

    To me, while its good to celebrate and honor sg hawker culture, the efforts also saddens me because it hints of the Desperate attempts to claim unesco heritage listing when every country deserve the same. Its likw you have a degree but so too does every road sweeper in future.

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  • TEMUSIK PATRIOT:

    Waste management…Cleaners & Carton Collector

    Health & Water Closet management…Toilet attendant

    No course needed by APPOINTMENT only and NO AGE LIMIT

    “Eureka”!!!

    & Now a course as M 3* Chef for Hawker centers with a Diploma to Display @Stall…to COMMAND a higher Price

    What a WAY TO GO!!!

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  • Minispreneur:

    It should be mpreneur!

    Or minispreneur?

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  • Well written:

    realistic,I am afraid our pap ministers are out touch with reality,all of them have similar themes fr humble beginnings,lily neo wrote during Indonesia riots she hide under bed,it could be a palatial mansion WITH GUARDS n not necessarily a hut,which CHILD WOULD NOT HIDE,I am sure she came fr that background
    Vivian bala WAS IN TEARS DURING LAST ELECTIONS as he recalled that his grandma wanted leave legacy for second generation,get real Vivian!

    Many sporeans don’t have enough food on table for their kids not to mention the sec generation,it is only when you have excess abundance that you think of all these,
    At a luncheon some time back one architect lamented he could not know wether to choose a BMW or Mercedes,which model,budget 250000,
    I left the luncheon in disgust at the cricket club,outside was a old man in his eighties selling tissues by the roadside in the rain,
    I certainly have a nr of questions for my maker when the time comes

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  • Pappy Simisai .....:

    First of all, kudos to Mr. Tan for providing this lucid testimony of his family’s struggle in making good in early Singapore. When the HDB homes and the public health care were once designed and operated with the common people’s income levels in mind – never to make big bucks for armchair corporate executive politicians. HDB prices have shot up 500% in the last 25 years and Medisave of course as well. But what heck! Sheeples’ peanuts-that-cant-feed-monkeys median wages have not gone up more than 70% in that time….. although Pappy cult hawkeyes have been paying themselves top global wages (and more secret GLC $$$) all along.

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  • Pinky is useless anyway:

    Now the PAPPY has the numbers to win every election, so now they openly do this to locals without fear of repercussion.

    They rammed up the import and conversion of foreigners to neutralise all the growing and unhappy locals.

    Singaporeans voted for this, their future generation will be managed by foreigners and new Singaporeans.

    The war is lost.

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  • Ah-Ong:

    Politicians are running out of ideas lah
    Skewed-future for hawker course in polytechnic? This is about what? Transfer $$$ left and right.
    But hor, we Chingaporean will still support it many many. Come we all become hawkers! Let’s go book appointment ok?

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  • Flickshit:

    The PAP ministers has run out of ideas to build Singapore into the next era.
    and therefore, all these ministers are buying time to get out of the country and before, they must makes million of dollars from the land, thru PAP elites.

    Once Singapore is gone and they will just leave this place and they will run road to Aust or New Zealand. So they create all these stupid ideas to cheat or con there new generation to be lower income workers or hawkers.

    If you guy are still sleeping, good luck to you and by that time, don’t come here to COW BAI COW BOO, because most of you, 70% are stupid, dumb and blind.

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  • PAP evil doing:

    PAP cannot provide jobs for the graduates so came out with this idea of getting them to be hawkers. This is the failure of this PAP government for incapability and still dreaming that Sg is the best or No 1 in Asean. The $1M salary is for PM LHL to be the Emperor. This is absolutely nonsonese!

    The graduates are now displaced by FTs and as reported there’s huge increase in PRs in 2019 and 2020 quietly. PM LHL must step down and impeached for watever hidden secrets. Only SDP CSJ can do it!. They need to give jobs to these PRs and new citizens.

    Graduates study for wat? to be hawkers at the end of the day. They worst than stray dogs! but still people dun realise and refuse to realise and agree. That’s worst!

    PAP supporters deserve all the bashings from PAP and PRs as well as new citizens. Kudos to all supporters!

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  • PAP mandate strong:

    Honestly,
    Good points.
    Fair analysis.

    At least theres facts n figures then others articles.

    Failed to mention lost of good yummy secret recipe hawker foods over decades. During the 60s alot of good foods, every decade we lost some. Currently less

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  • PAP mandate strong:

    …..less than 50% nice food left.
    Many hanged up their towels or aprons , children not interested, passed away,….. Competition from fast food, japan foods, korea foods, western foods etc.

    Spoken to some prcs , in China also faces same problem.

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  • PAP is Most Scandalous Party:

    What is the message PAP putting towards current and future students of Poly, ITE, presumably Uni too in near future which one can never never discount as one of another FLOP FLOPS of PAP Administration?

    Current students NEED OUT TO SIT UP RAMROCK STRAIGHT – WHY is the PAP govt GIVING 100s of 1000s of tax payers dollars to foreigners to study for free and yet these foreign students probably leave SG scott free TO ESCAPE BECOMING HAWKERS in SG.

    Also current students CERTAINLY will be wiser to contemplate, ARE THEY GOING TO GRADUATE into hawkers of the future?

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  • Misguided Misperception:

    Hawker is nothing unique.
    Hawker food is street food.
    Most countries have their own type of street foods.

    Most countries regard their street foods unique to themselves and love their own foods.

    Its just like Religion.
    Country A with mainly Religion A followers believe their God A is the true Creator.

    Country B with mainly Religion B followers believe their God B is the real Creator.

    Both countries Believe extremely in what they believe.

    So, its the same case here with Hawker foods.

    Sgreans believe hainan chicken rice is invented in sg. Malaysians believe its invented in malaysia.
    Hainan people knows its really invented by hainanese.

    The education for all here is it does not matter what you believe. The truth can be something else. And just because each country is unique does not mean sg hawker culture being unique should be a unesco listing. This is because its implied that every country street food aka hawker food is unique and well loved by their own people.

    I see that singapore is confused . It think sg may have misperceived perception as reality, as if sg is the center of the world.

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  • xoxo:

    A diploma in *HAWKERY* is plain stupid!
    Why are the scholar-gahmen such idiots!

    Very short-sighted,very destructive to REAL LOCAL TALENTS in Banking n Finance,IT etc.

    So MANY GOOD N PRODUCTIVE SG-PMEs rendered chronically unemployable over past 15/20 years.

    If lee ah long’s FTs are so good ,why NATIONAL PROFUCTIVITY has been going down eversince good sg-PMEs have been displaced most unfairly n deLEEberately past 20 years?

    The persons who need to be replaced ASAP are no other than Lee Ah Long himself,Ho JINX,KEE CHIU and some of theirD expensive doggies.

    From Fishing Village to First World and back to HAWKING ?

    SON OF PUNGGOL,ARE YOU KEEN TO BECOME PIG-FARMER or you are advising your kids to be Hawkingpreneur?

    Lee Ah Long,maybe you want to resign immediately and sell MEE SIAM MAI HUM?
    THAT WOULD BE A WORLD’S FIRST?!!!

    IDIOTS!!!

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  • Asd:

    I think degree in toilet cleaning soon

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  • Dr. Chan:

    Next there will be diploma or degree in security guardpreneurship, Maidpreneurship, uber/grab driverprenenrship?

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  • flickshit:

    Crazy and Stupid ideas from the PAP.

    I was having lunch this afternoon at Maxwell Hawker Centre. And I happpened to share a table (3 pax), including me.

    So I have friendly chat with two of them and asking about their business and how they feel about the govt asking youngers ( new generation) to sudy in ITE or poly to be hawkers.

    I was shocked to heard from them that the minister or PAP govt is crazy and know nuts about the hawkers; business and the operational matters.

    They told me, that in Maxwell market along, almost 905 of the exisitng hawkers ro those senior would not have any children or grand-children taking over the stall as most of their children prefer to do thing than hawkering.

    So these hawkers were either closed shop or sell off their stall and retire.

    So why our highly educated minisiters with Doctorate or PhD don;t have the brain and simple logic before opening their mouth.

    How can Singapore progress with these half=pass six, million dollars cow brain running the country……. bye bye Singapore, I think it is better to sell the country to China and let China runs and manages Singapore as another Chinese province, like HK…

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  • Desperate Papple Desperate Act:

    Totally bankrupt of ideas, desperate papples commit desperate acts on sheeples.

    Truth be told, profuctivity is lost and all efforts effoffed (F*off). Students put in tremendous, serious efforts throughout their minimum years of study only to become enslaved hawkers under the control of unscrupulous corporate entities?

    Ghosh! What a fallen cuntry under the guise of Smart Nation branding. Eclapse (Economc Collapse) is truly lurking; eclipsed by a scheming and/or scamming style of governance?

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  • TT and Power Addiction:

    xoxo:
    A diploma in *HAWKERY* is plain stupid!
    Why are the scholar-gahmen such idiots!

    Very short-sighted,very destructive to REAL LOCAL TALENTS in Banking n Finance,IT etc.

    So MANY GOOD N PRODUCTIVE SG-PMEs rendered chronically unemployable over past 15/20 years.

    If lee ah long’s FTs are so good ,why NATIONAL PROFUCTIVITY has been going down eversince good sg-PMEs have been displaced most unfairly n deLEEberately past 20 years?

    The persons who need to be replaced ASAP are no other than Lee Ah Long himself,Ho JINX,KEE CHIU and some of theirD expensive doggies.

    From Fishing Village to First World and back to HAWKING ?

    SON OF PUNGGOL,ARE YOU KEEN TO BECOME PIG-FARMER or you are advising your kids to be Hawkingpreneur?

    Lee Ah Long,maybe you want to resign immediately and sell MEE SIAM MAI HUM?
    THAT WOULD BE A WORLD’S FIRST?!!!

    IDIOTS!!!

    I beg to be fked. I mean i beg to disagree!

    1. Its a strole of genius.
    Problem or Shame to sg education system: grads cannot find jobs become Hawkers.

    SOLUTION : degree in hawker. Bachelor of Hawker!
    So when Grads become Hawkers they can say its Success of education system.

    2. This way, we can have Bachelor of Beggars.
    Bachelor of Stay At Home Dads.
    Bachelor of Bathroom State of the Art Hygiene using AI

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  • Hawker without Hawking:

    One can also argue that the term Hawker is Incorrect.

    Hawking is shouting to solicit customers on the streets.

    Todays sg hawkers are not hawking. They are food sellers who does no hawking.

    Desperate times calls for desperate policies.

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  • Food Delivery Prenuers:

    flickshit:
    Crazy and Stupid ideas from the PAP.

    I was having lunch this afternoon at Maxwell Hawker Centre. And I happpened to share a table (3 pax), including me.

    So I have friendly chat with two of them and asking about their business and how they feel about the govt asking youngers ( new generation) to sudy in ITE or poly to be hawkers.

    I was shocked to heard from them that the minister or PAP govt is crazy and know nuts about the hawkers; business and the operational matters.

    They told me, that in Maxwell market along, almost 905 of the exisitng hawkers ro those senior would not have any children or grand-children taking over the stall as most of their children prefer to do thing than hawkering.

    So these hawkers were either closed shop or sell off their stall and retire.

    So why our highly educated minisiters with Doctorate or PhD don;t have the brain and simple logic before opening their mouth.

    How can Singapore progress with these half=pass six, million dollars cow brain running the country……. bye bye Singapore, I think it is better to sell the country to China and let China runs and manages Singapore as another Chinese province, like HK…

    Technically, there is nothing very bad asking ITE grads to be hawkers.

    What is Bad is this suggests the education system has failed to give grads jobs of the past which are more mainstream and more respectable.

    How far will the Erosion go ?
    I think singaporeans must continue to suffer tons more before they wake up.

    They are waiting for someome to admit failure before they wake up.

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  • Crony capitalist International:

    Went into the big Horne Hardware store at Ubi Crescent last year to browse through some stuff ….. was very surprised that almost all the young staff men and women were Malaysian workers. What’s gonna happen to knowledge transfer to next generation Singaporeans? While they’re out there doing F&B and food delivery?

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  • Limpeh Sayso:

    Next NUS and NTU will be offering a 4-year degree course with a major in Cha-Kuey-Tiao and a minor in Chai-Tao-Kuey. Just you wait and see.

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  • Playing with words:

    Limpeh Sayso:
    Next NUS and NTU will be offering a 4-year degree course with a major in Cha-Kuey-Tiao and a minor in Chai-Tao-Kuey. Just you wait and see.

    They can call it Bachelor of Michelin .

    Or they can encourage students to be Toilet Cleaning Entreprenuers of silicon valley by offering PhD in Toilet Sophistication Entreprenuership using AI !

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