By Muhammad Basir Roslan
Over the last one month or so, many jobless people in the city have turned to the food business to generate an income for themselves. This first of a two-part article looks at the influx of hawkers all over the city.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Before the COVID-19 crisis engulfed the nation, three hawkers selling nasi lemak and kuih used to operate at Jalan 16A in Taman Dato Ahmad Razali in Ampang, Selangor.
However, after the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) came into force last month, 10 stalls selling various types of local delights and drinks have mushroomed in the same area.
Indeed, there has been an influx of hawkers all over the city after the MCO ended and RMCO kicked in.
Obviously a “side-effect” of the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent imposition of the MCO which left many people jobless, selling food and drinks by the roadside and in housing and commercial areas is the only way for them to earn an income to feed their families.
According to Federal Territory Bumiputera Petty Traders Association president Datuk Seri Rosli Sulaiman, hawkers have been “springing up like mushrooms after the rain” in the city following the lifting of restrictions imposed during the MCO.
Attributing this to the loss of jobs during the MCO, he said many people were affected when they were retrenched following cost-cutting measures implemented by the firms they worked for.
Rosli, however, could not give an estimate on how many new hawkers have emerged of late, saying that his association, which has 6,000 members, has yet to assess the situation.
He said Kuala Lumpur City Hall has also acknowledged the recent increase in street hawkers and has, in fact, given them the flexibility to apply for a temporary permit so that they can start operating immediately.
Last month, the Social Security Organisation (Socso) was quoted as saying that according to its Employment Insurance System, job losses in the country has increased by 42 percent year-on-year for the first quarter of this year (Q1 2020).
“Those who suddenly found themselves without a job had to look around for something to do in order to earn an income. And, since many of them are young and energetic, the best option for them is to set up a food stall… they have to do this to survive,” Rosli told Bernama.
Rosli, however, described them as “express” hawkers, saying that they were probably involved in the food business temporarily whilst waiting for a job offer that promised more stability and a higher income.
He said opening a food stall is a relatively easier way to start a business as it requires only a small capital compared to opening a restaurant or hiring a food truck.
“But those operating food stalls don’t get to earn much. They can make about RM100 to RM150 a day, just enough to meet their daily expenses.
“Some may earn about RM5,000 a month but it is not sufficient if they have families to take care of and live in Kuala Lumpur where the cost of living is high. Then, there is the business licence to pay for, workers’ salaries (if they have helpers) and other costs,” he added.
Rosli, who is also 1Malaysia Coalition of Petty Traders Associations president, urged local authorities to facilitate the process for obtaining permits to run a business.
“Most of them who apply for a permit are doing so because they have to survive and they also want to do their part to spur the nation’s economic growth.
“So, if an area is declared a green zone and COVID-19 free, the authorities should allow people to set up their stalls by the roadside without imposing overly strict conditions on them. As long as they observe the relevant SOPs (standard operating procedures), they should be allowed to continue trading,” he said.
Rosli also appealed to the government to evict foreigners who are trading illegally in public places as their presence has affected the income of Malaysian petty traders.
“It’s not fair as they (foreigners) don’t have business permits and neither do they pay taxes nor maintenance fees,” he said, adding that efforts to remove foreign traders from the streets should be carried out in a holistic and integrated manner.
Meanwhile, more food trucks have also emerged in the city, many of them run by youths who have lost their source of income during the MCO and are making an effort to lure customers by offering innovative “hipster” food and beverage items that appeal to the younger generation.
Federal Territory Food Truck Association president Muhammad Azlan Abas said the food truck scene in the city has been surviving with the introduction of hipster or fusion food such as melted cheese murtabak, cold dinosaur milo, kerabu maggi, mango milkshake, tea or coffee with boba (chewy pearls made of tapioca starch), soft crab burger and serunding (meat floss) burger.
Melyana Hafiza Hafid, 19, who runs a food truck specialising in nasi berlauk (rice, gravy and other dishes) in Ampang, Selangor, said she is fortunate that her business has been doing well although she has to work hard from morning till night.
For those who have just entered the food business, Melyana Hafiza has this to say: “Be prepared to work really hard and don’t give up easily. It’s important for you to know that you are in this (business) because you want to earn an honest income for your family.”
Translated by Rema Nambiar
Malaysia National News Agency
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