Bukit Panjang MP Dr Teo Ho Pin has rejected the SDP’s invitation to jointly help residents and stallholders by calling on Sheng Siong to reverse its decision to increase rents of the stalls at Fajar market by 30 percent.
The Singapore Democrats met Dr Teo at his meet-the-people’s session last week to ask him to co-sign a letter to Sheng Siong (see letter below). Dr Teo callously dismissed the effort by repeatedly saying that “market forces” should prevail (watch video below).
A team of Singapore Democrats led by party chairman Mr Gandhi Ambalam visited Dr Teo’s office last Monday evening. Dr Teo was accompanied by more than half a dozen of his party members.
He rejected any kind of joint approach with the SDP to find solution to the problem, saying: “The government can’t interfere. Let the market forces decide whether the increased rentals by Sheng Siong were steep or not.”
The PAP MP obviously doesn’t know what he is talking about. Sheng Siong is taking over the only wet market in the area. The company is increasing rents leaving stallholders without a choice but to move out of the property.
Dr Teo seems clueless that there is not another wet market in the estate. Without another wet market to offer competition to Sheng Siong, how can there be market forces?
When prices of the basic foodstuff start to increase, just where does Dr Teo expect the residents to go to buy these items? When there is only one operator it is called a monopoly, not market forces.
Mr Ambalam pointed out to him: “Where is the market force when the PAP Government favors big businesses at the expense of small and medium businessmen and the residents’ welfare?”
But Dr Teo could only repeat that market forces should prevail. In other words, he doesn’t care about the plight of the stallholders and residents.
At the close of the exchange, Mr Ambalam told Dr Teo: “If the Bukit Panjang ward remains a single-member constituency in the coming general elections, you can definitely expect a contest from SDP. The PAP is not the party of the people and it only cares for the rich”.
Below is the video clip or read the exchange between Dr Teo and Mr Ambalam below.
Exchange between Gandhi Ambalam and Teo Ho Pin
Teo: Rentals will go up and down, it’s all private arrangements. Even the government properties, the vendors…
Ambalam: Do you think the 30% increase, by Sheng Siong, after the takeover of the wet market, is it justifiable?
Teo: It depends on market forces. I tell you, the market forces will determine the rental. Right now it’s going up or going down, the market forces will…
Ambalam: Now what is your view on this 30% increase?
Teo: No, I will not interfere in any commercial arrangements. In the past Heeton also rented. Different stalls got different rentals. As long as they are able to provide good services to the residents, we’ll leave it to the operators. But if they don’t provide good services, then they’ll be out.
Jufrie Mahmood (off screen): So the Government shouldn’t interfere?
Teo: No, we don’t interfere. The way we look at it, how we look at it is that, whoever that can provide the best service to my residents, we welcome them. But they have to look at the market forces because our residents will also look at it. If your things are very expensive, my residents won’t support you. So I always tell the shops, you have to serve my residents. So we have been telling all the shops in Bukit Panjang, or in fact we have been doing that everywhere you know, the shops must be there to serve the residents. They are business and they need to make a profit, fair enough. But if they make it very expensive, then the residents won’t support the shops and they will have to close shop. It’s common sense you know, this is market forces.
Ambalam: In other words you are leaving it to the market forces, and while there should be market forces, (inaudible) 30% increase is justifiable?
Teo: That is not up to me to say, that is up to Sheng Siong to say, to tell the residents, the stall-holders, whether that is justifiable.
Ambalam: When we went to the Fajar market, nearly half (of the stalls) were empty.
Teo: What? No, its ok, its ok. What I’m concerned is that, the wet market must be there to serve the residents. A runs it, B runs it, C runs it, it doesn’t make a difference to us. As long as they provide good services.
(Inaudible cross talk)
Teo: What is your agenda here? If you are really concerned about the residents, that you don’t have to worry, you leave it to me. I am the MP for this constituency, I will know what to do, to serve my residents, you don’t have to worry.
Ambalam: Dr Teo, bear with me for a few seconds. We are concerned, because are a political party, and we will be contesting if Bukit Panjang remains a single member constituency-
Teo: If you are contesting it’s your problem…I don’t know.
Ambalam: You don’t know, yourself. If it is still a single member constituency, you can expect a contest from the SDP.
Teo: You are welcome to.
Ambalam: So because of that, we are concerned for the welfare of the citizens, as well as the stall-holders, the vendors and they have expressed their concerns to us. So what is your position?
Teo: You are concerned, I’m also concerned.
Ambalam: No, you are saying you are leaving it to the market forces.
Teo: No, I have got my own things to do, and I know what to do…
Ambalam: Of course.
Teo:…but as far as rental is concerned it’s always market forces. Rental, whether it is a public tender, whether it is private, is (subject to) market forces. This is common sense, you know right?
Ambalam: In other words, I’ve given you the joint statement, which you are not prepared to sign.
Teo: No, I’m not prepared to sign.
Ambalam: Thank you very much.
Teo: Thank you very much. Anyway, we’ll see what will happen.
Ambalam: We will continue to make it happen.
Teo: You do whatever you…
Ambalam: One last word. Last week we were there, and half of the wet market stalls were empty.
Teo: My concern is this, as long as the market remains open.
The letter to Sheng Siong which Dr Teo will not sign
12 April 2010
Ms Tan Ching Fern
Sheng Siong Pte Ltd
3000 Marsiling Road
Fax: 6269 8265
Re: Sheng Siong’s rent hike
It is most unfortunate that Sheng Siong has raised the rental of the wet markets, including the Fajar Market in Bukit Panjang, by such an exorbitant amount.
Your action has left many in economic hardship as some vendors have had to quit the stalls because they cannot afford the rent hike. Others have had to lay off workers or work longer hours.
Most of all we are concerned that the increased rental will be passed on as cost to shoppers who depend on the wet market for their daily necessities. This will bring even greater hardship for residents, especially those in the lower-income groups.
A good business strategy does not have to involve the increasing of rents that adversely affect your tenants and consumers. In the interest of a sustainable and long-term profit-making strategy, we urge you to withdraw your decision to increase the rental and restore the rate to what it was previously.
We look forward to your cooperation.
Singapore Democratic Party
Dr Teo Ho Pin
Member of Parliament
Bukit Panjang Constituency