It was reported in the media today that the government will pay for the increased costs incurred by dorm operators due to the dormitory lockdowns and stay-home notices imposed on some 300,000 foreign workers in Singapore (‘Govt to absorb added costs for dorm operators during circuit breaker‘, 12 May).
Due to such lockdowns, dorm operators reported that their utility bills have increased sharply. They also said that they have difficulties in finding manpower to support the sanitation and safe distancing measures required to be implemented in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in dormitories.
Faced with complaints from dorm operators, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) under Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday (11 May) that it will offset the increase in operating costs for dorm operators.
All the extra costs incurred for manpower, cleaning, maintenance, utilities and infrastructure due to the dormitory lockdowns will be paid for by taxpayers. But MOM was quick to say that such support is only temporary and “in view of the ongoing Covid-19 infections in the dormitories”.
Dorm operators only need to provide receipts for their “business-as-usual” expenses as well as for the months that saw increased operating costs to get reimbursements from the government.
A spokesperson for Centurion Corporation, which operates a few Westlite dormitories in Singapore told the media that it has not been easy to employ additional manpower in dorms at such short notice, especially because they are considered high-risk locations. Centurion has instead employed some of the foreign workers already staying at its dormitories to help out. It’s not known how it would charge the government (if any), in such cases.
Centurion Corporation helmed by PA grassroots leaders
Westlite dormitories owned by Centurion Corporation is actually helmed by two grassroots leaders from the People’s Association (PA), David Loh Kim Kang and Han Seng Juan (‘Foreign worker dormitories with active COVID-19 clusters linked to PA grassroots leaders‘, 10 Apr).
They were both awarded public service medals by the President for “helping” out at Potong Pasir SMC under MP Sitoh Yih Pin. In the general election of 2011, PAP managed to wrestle back Potong Pasir from opposition and it’s now under the PAP.
Another board member of Centurion Corporation, Rajah & Tann’s lawyer Chandra Mohan, is also a grassroots leader awarded with PBM and BBM in recognition of his contribution towards community services in Northwest Community Development Council (NWCDC).
Centurion Corporation makes $73m in one quarter
Centurion Corporation under the 2 PA grassroots leaders has been doing well, making nice profits from running foreign worker dormitories. According to an ST article last month (26 Apr), dormitory operators are known to chalk up a tidy profit.
“Mainboard-listed operator Centurion Corporation, for instance, posted a 38 per cent rise in net profit to $73.1 million for its fourth quarter ending Dec 31,” it reported. That is to say, in 3 months, Centurion was able to make $73.1 million.
In any case, Han seems to be doing so well that he could afford to buy a landed property in Sentosa Cove just for entertainment purposes. It was said that he uses the Sentosa home as a “weekend party home” to sometimes entertain more than a hundred guests over the weekend.
This was revealed by his wife Susanna Kang in a media article published a few years ago when she opened up their Sentosa “party home” for reporters to take a look (‘Wife of grassroots leader in workers’ dorm business, shows their Sentosa weekend “party home” to media’).
Han’s wife is said to be a “fixture in society magazines”, often seen wearing head-turning gowns and ensembles, complete with elaborate hairstyles.
Edit on 15 May: The profit for Centurion Corporation’s net profit from its core business operations (after tax and minority interests) for the 12 months of FY2019 was S$38.2 million. International business, excluding Singapore, accounted for more than 42% of revenues in FY2019.