The iconic Sungei Road market is the oldest and largest flea market in Singapore, with its roots traced way back to the 1930s.
The approximately 80-year-old flea market – also known as Thieves’ Market – will soon cease operations on July 10 as it makes way for residential developments. This was despite the hawkers’ efforts to petition conservation of the area.
As its closure draws near, the Government is working on the rehabilitation of the vendors through various assistance options, including employment and financial help, as well as facilitation of applications for hawker stalls at other places.
In April, Government officers met with the street vendors to help them find ways to carry on their trade, according to a joint media statement by 7 government agencies.
About 70 of them said they do not require any assistance as they felt they could support themselves or find other jobs on their own.
On the other hand, only 44 of the 200 vendors – that’s only one-fifth of them – have accepted assistance from the various government agencies.
Among them, 23 vendors have applied for hawker stalls, of which 20 have been allocated lock-up stalls at Chinatown Market, North Bridge Road Market and Food Centre, or Upper Cross Street Market.
“Although hawker stalls are in high demand in Singapore and at near full occupancy, we set aside more than 30 stalls that SRHZ (Sungei Road Hawking Zone) users can apply for,” said Adeline Leong, Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Department at the National Environment Agency (NEA).
“This is in addition to the stalls made available under the NEA’s monthly tender for hawker stalls which SRHZ users can also opt for.”
The Housing Development Board would also be releasing five retail shops in June which the vendors can bid for retail use, including sale of second-hand goods. HDB also has another 20 void-deck kiosks meant for use as mini-mart or convenience store, and those who wish to change to these trades can bid over the next three months.
The 11 original market permit holders will get a full rental subsidy for the first year – and half for the second.
Financial And Employment Assistance
Other vendors are looking to hawk their wares at alternative flea markets. NEA has identified seven flea markets which are close to the homes of the vendors, and is facilitating the application of stalls at some of these flea markets.
Some vendors are also in the midst of getting financial help. Fifteen vendors have been granted financial assistance through ComCare, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development is partnering the Central Singapore Community Development Council to refer vendors who might need more help to other assistance schemes.
41 users have also responded to Workforce Singapore’s outreach on providing employment assistance. To date, WSG is providing job placement support to three users.
The remaining users have either not made a decision about alternative employment or indicated that they do not need employment assistance from WSG.
On those who have declined any help, Leong said the authorities “will continue to keep in touch with them, and help them with the various assistance options should they wish to apply for them”.
Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons