Thursday, October 15, 2009

Corporatization of wet markets....

We used to have independent cabbies who owned licenses for their cabs. They didn't have to pay rent because they owned their taxis and enjoyed higher income. Today, taxi licenses are owned by various corporations and the taxi driver becomes a renter. When times are good, his taxi rental is raised so that the corporations can make more profits. There is a corporation in the middle to collect rent. Rent that the taxi driver half his working hours to cover.

Stalls food courts used to be rented out individually to mom and pop stalls. It was hard work but these stalls that make enough to support a family. Today an increasing number of foodcourts are own and operated by corporations who hire low wage workers (mostly from China) to serve and cook the food. Prices are high and the food is (sometimes?) bad and most of it goes towards the profits of corporations who now control an increasing number of food courts.

Recently, it was reported that that there is an increasing number of wet markets that has been taken over by big corporations[Link] who have purchased these markets from the owners. The plan is to either convert them into supermarkets or air-conditioned markets. The customers don't want it as they are likely to end up paying more and the stall holders will lose their livelihood.

While corporatization very often is beneficial because it introduces economy of scale and efficiency, in many cases it merely converts income of small scale independent businesses into profits of large corporations without benefit to the consumers.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is the system that allows all this. The top system is the political system. It decides all other systems - social, economic, military. police etc.

Therefore if there is to be real change, the change must be the political system. Fighting for changes at other and lower levels is futile.

As we know, the political system here is rock solid, at least for another 10 years, according to MM Lee. I think he is 99% right.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

It is easier to convince people that they need a middle man if you can prevent them from getting along by themselves eg. by forestalling the ground-up evolution of a unifying national culture/identity/commonspeak through constant bombardment from the mainstream media, various campaigns and a massive influx of foreigners.

As long as "Singaporeans" are kept from having anything in common with one another, they will continue to be dependent on middle men to resolve issues, and consequently power flows upstream into their hands.

Once they did not exist; in short order they have become indispensible.

Anonymous said...

So you have never heard about Wel-Mart?

That's the trend.

Ghost said...

I disagreed that corporatization is beneficial because of economy of scale and efficiency. Most large corporations are not efficient because they are too big to response quickly to changes in the market and as of economy of scale; if that's true, why are prices so high in Singapore because Singapore is almost totally in the hands of large corporations.

Anonymous said...

Singapore is almost totally in the hands of large corporations.

And the large corporations are . . .

Why make life difficult for us, we are just average and common people making a living?

Anonymous said...

@Ghost

Big has two effects, both or one can occur. First, economy of scale is possible up to certain size. This is good. Second, market power or monopoly to raise price and even reduce quality (you have no choice). This is bad.

Anonymous said...

We gotta progress. Do you see any wet market in the West? Don't you guys want to achieve swiss standard of living?

So inevitably everything will go aircon one mah. Like that also complain meh?

Ai pi ai qi ai tua liap ni? Where got so good...

Anonymous said...

Cnt say about all the countries in europe but i'm sure they still have.

Britain still got wet market lah. I lived there 4 yrs.

Anonymous said...

"There is a corporation in the middle to collect rent. Rent that the taxi driver half his working hours to cover." Paragraph 1, last 2 sentences.

Lucky, please edit. I think there's something grammatically wrong here.

Anonymous said...

Every time we renovate a wet market or a hawker centre, the rent goes up. At least by 30%.

Incomes do not rise 30% within a year. But rents rise 30% overnight, once renovation is complete.

Rents up go, prices must automatically go up. If the hawkers don't absorb the costs, the customers have to. Either way, our purchasing power goes down.

I haven't seen any tangible benefits of renovation. Rents go up, hawkers are forced to cut corners in order to save money.

Being careless with hygiene and reducing the portions are common ways of cutting costs.

Anonymous said...

Our PAP leaders has turned the whole country into a money making corporation. Where there is money to be made, they are sure involved.

Even the HDB public housing at Pinnacles, they want to turn it into a cash cow by charging visitors to the sky deck.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind they corporatize everything but be socially responsible.

Anonymous said...

"So inevitably everything will go aircon one mah. Like that also complain meh?

Ai pi ai qi ai tua liap ni? Where got so good..."

excuse me, most people won't want air conditioning that bad, not at the expense of increased costs anyway.

the last time i recalled there was only one immortal old man who vehemently insisted to have air-conditioning, set at 25 deg, everywhere he went.

the rest of us mere mortals can do without air-conditioning in wet markets.

yamizi said...

How is corporatization beneficial? Just seems like a lot of monie spent on maintaining its administrative purposes?

Anonymous said...

It is an very worrying trend which most people had ignore.
It is like the "boiling frog", if you don't feel it, you ignore. When it come to your turn, it is too late.
No wonder outsiders say sporeans are "stupid"?

Anonymous said...

In the West, they have farmers' markets which really cuts out the middleman. You buy directly from the producer. It can't bet any fresher than that. That's their version of wet market. They have the big supermarkets and they haver the farmers' markets. Both can co-exist and consumers have a choice.

Corporatising the wet markets turns independent stallholders into employees. Chances are these employees will not be the former stallholders but cheaper foreign labour.

Yes, there is economies of scale when big corporations buy in huge quantities. One must be naive to think that the savings will be passed on to the consumers instead of increasing the profit of these corporations.

Plus, this really kills the entrepreneurial spirit in of the people. The government is simply paying lip service when it says it encourage entreprenuership. It has single handedly killed off more avenues for budding entrepreneurs than any other factors.

Yes, I feel sad there are no more independent taxi drivers in Singapore. I feel sad that there are less and less independent hawker centres and coffee shops. Now it is the turn of the wet markets. At this rate, eventually there will be no small businesses left in Singapore. Every business will be owned by some big corporation who employs the cheapest avaialable labour. Sounds like we are moving backwards to feudal times. The masses toiling for the elite.

Anonymous said...

Privatisation is not all peachy as those higher ups like to sell you.

Lucky, have you read Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"? I found many parallels in Singapore and think you and your readers may enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the middleman was supposed to play a diminished role, but instead, it has grown. Most probably due to the policies of the government that choose the path that makes most money.

Sell away the power plants to foreigners. Introduce ourself as the middleman, no costs, no risk. Let the private banks fund the HDB purchase, we just build and sell. With BTO we are sure there is a ready buyer. No risk business. I can go on and on. We need to get out of this place so sings Eric Burdon, wait , why do we need to get out.

Get them out instead

Kojakbt said...

Let's take a look at what happened when HDB privatise off a wet market. The current rule, as I understand it is that the new operator would need to keep it as wet market. Earlier, the people who bidded for the project were property people.

So, when HDB calls for tender, the developers will tend to bid high so that they can get the wet market. Once the wet market is in their hands and since they need to recover back their investments, it's only natural that they will charge higher rentals for the stalls. Stall owners will have no choice but to increase their prices too.

So, who is the ultimate winner here?

Kojakbt said...

Just for your info, Heeton is the property company that is trying to sell 5 the wet markets they owned to Sheng Shiong. They are the one in the news lately.

If you look at their annual reports, you will find that 2 of their board members are:

Dr Low Seow Chay
Non-executive,
Independent Director

Dr Low was appointed as an independent director of the Company on 27 December 2002. Dr Low has been a member of parliament from 1988 to 2006. He is currently lecturing and is an associate professor of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University. Dr Low is the Chairman of the Remuneration Committee and a member of the Audit Committee.

Dr Koh Lip Lin
Non-executive,
Independent Director

Dr Koh was appointed as an independent director of the Company on 27 December 2002. Dr Koh is a tutor at the Department of Chemistry, National University of Singapore, where he conducts research and development and lectures. Dr Koh was a member of parliament from 1979 to 1996. Dr Koh is the Chairman of the Nomination Committee and a member of the Remuneration Committee.

Let's zoom in on Dr Low Seow Chay:

He was the MP for Chua Chu Kang for 4 elections: 88,91,97,01.

http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/home/msclow/political.html

Previous Political Appointment :

Chairman of Goverment Parliament Committee for the Environment
Vice-Chairman of Goverment Parliament Committee for National Development & Housing

Vice-Chairman, National Preparatory Committee for UN Summit on Sustainable Development
Board Member of Housing and Development Board

Member of Social Welfare Review Committee
Member of Parliament Estimate Committee
Vice-Chairman, Hong Kah Town Council

http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/home/msclow/CV-SCLOW-July%202009.pdf

Anonymous said...

Alya, you need more corporates to house the fat scholars mah, i guess most of these fat asses are from SAF.

min said...

just seen on tv that cck wet market is going to be taken over by ss. No more wet market for the folks and they seem really upset. Can ss promise that they can offer better and fresher food at same or even lower px? I doubt so. Once they take over, it can easily become a monopolised mkt

Anonymous said...

"Today an increasing number of foodcourts are own and operated by corporations who hire low wage workers (mostly from China) to serve and cook the food. Prices are high and the food is (sometimes?) bad and most of it goes towards the profits of corporations who now control an increasing number of food courts."

Good observance. Cheap, better & faster ? Law of the jungle where the lion (owners) gets the lion's share while the rabbits (displaced local workers) may be on permanent dependents' mode (e.g on handouts & assistance).

It is normal for lion to get the lion's share, but if you have foreign rabbits, ...........

Good luck to those who are neither here nor there (falling in between the cracks) who may not qualify for handouts & assistance due to technicalities.

Ah Pat said...

Lucky, in fact, stallholders at dry markets used to *own* their stalls. Then later the gahmen started to buy back those stalls, and now everything is by rental only, if I'm not wrong.

Oh and last night, I watched the news. Apparently HDD said that selling the wet markets to Sheng Siong is to meet, check this out, "market demands". Eh, HDB and Mediacorp must really think we're stupid huh? They just showed a series of interviews with residents and stallholders there, and each one said they DID NOT want to trade their wet market for SS. Then they quoted HDB as saying it's for market demands that they approve this change from wet market to SS. Pui pui pui pui pui! Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kojakbt said...

"Oh and last night, I watched the news. Apparently HDD said that selling the wet markets to Sheng Siong is to meet, check this out, "market demands". Eh, HDB and Mediacorp must really think we're stupid huh? They just showed a series of interviews with residents and stallholders there, and each one said they DID NOT want to trade their wet market for SS. Then they quoted HDB as saying it's for market demands that they approve this change from wet market to SS. Pui pui pui pui pui! Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It is my belief that Sheng Siong and Heeton have very close relationship with PAP... at least for Heeton, 2 of their independent directors are ex-PAP MPs. One of them used to sit on the board of HDB and also Parliamentary Committee on HDB and NEA...

How else can you explain that before Heeton got the official approval from HDB to sell to SS, they already started sending terminating notices to all the stall owners? They were so confident of getting the approval from HDB, obviously... HAHA!

Clarence Zeng said...

Hi SingaporeMind,

I'll like to clarify something.

Does that mean with this transaction of Heeton, a private entity is selling its property to another private entity, Sheng Siong, means that wet markets are already corporatised to begin with?

Clarence Zeng said...

Hi SingaporeMind,

I'll like to clarify something.

Does that mean with this transaction of Heeton, a private entity is selling its property to another private entity, Sheng Siong, means that wet markets are already corporatised to begin with?

Because if that's the case, that means your article heading seems to be misleading.