Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wet market ’sentimentalism’ rooted in pragmatism

I REFER to Monday’s report, ‘Wet markets must make economic sense, say MPs’. Senior Minister of State Balaji Sadasivan was quoted as saying that stallholders of the Seletar Hills wet market, which was demolished in 2004, asked him not to further extend the closing date of the market after this was postponed for a year.

He said many of them were in their 70s and wanted to collect the gratuity from the Government and retire.

The Seletar Hills wet market was very well-patronised right to its last days. Also, none of the hawkers I spoke to wanted to see the market closed. In fact, during the months leading up to the demolition, many of them were wearing aprons with the name of the market printed boldly to show their support.

It may be true that some hawkers wanted to retire, but I do not understand why their stalls could not be put up for sale. Furthermore, there were also many other stallholders who were still young or middle-aged. In fact, after the market was shuttered, some of them moved to nearby markets or coffee shops to continue their business.

If I read correctly, the MPs quoted in the article implied that the public outcry against wet markets being closed is due to sentimental reasons. However, looking at the recent news reports, such ’sentimentalism’ is rooted in pragmatism. Wet markets serve very practical purposes. This is why their customers keep coming back and are unhappy when this amenity is taken away from them.

The real reason for closing Seletar Hills market was not because of ageing stallholders or lack of customers. The real reason is dollars and cents. HDB wanted to redevelop the site and thus place it on the reserve list under the Government Land Sales Programme. After five years, it finally has a winning bid from Far East Organization. The plans are to have a mixed commercial and residential development with amenities such as shops, food and beverage outlets.

I guess to some, such plans make better ‘economic sense’ than having thriving wet markets serving the needs of residents and business owners.

Huang Meifang (Ms)

Source: Straits Times, 24 Dec 2009

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