In a Straits Times (ST) forum letter published on Thursday (21 May), ST reader Tang Li voiced out that the dormitory operators should bear their own increased operating costs that incurred due to dormitory lockdowns and stay-home notices.
Looking at the profit of these dorm operators, Mr Tang said that these dorm operators have made vast profits “merely by maximising the number of people in a certain space”.
“If our system allows them to earn profits in this manner, should we not also allow them to bear the cost when the system requires them to adapt their businesses to new realities?” he questioned.
Mr Tang said that Singapore has always proud to be a “beacon” for global free enterprise while the citizens are always reminded that their prosperity is depending on an “open business system”.
“We have argued that our system works because it does not mollycoddle people amid the realities of the free market,” he stated.
Noting the social assistance programmes are based on “helping people to help themselves”, Mr Tang said the programmes are aimed to retrain and reskill workers instead of providing financial support when they are unemployed.
He pointed out that the dormitory operators neither the innovative start-ups coming up with market-disrupting products that will shape the future nor enterprises that hire many Singaporeans in high-paying jobs.
Hence, he asked, “Why should a society that takes pride in not sheltering people from the realities of the free market system find it acceptable to shelter large corporations from the same?”
“The reality of the free market system is that it allows you to succeed with minimal government interference, but at the same time you are on your own if you fail,” he added.
Mr Tang’s view concurred with the forum letter written by Cheng Shoong Tat on 16 May to question the Government why taxpayers will be footing the bill for the dorm operators that have profited for the years.
Mr Cheng’s article noted the net profits of Singapore Exchange-listed companies Centurion Corp, Wee Hur Holdings and Lian Beng Group from their dormitory and other businesses were respectively $103.8 million, $34.9 million and $32.9 million for the financial year of 2019.
“At a time when many deserving demands are competing for tight public finances, those who have profited for years from business models that have now come home to roost must not expect taxpayers to clean up after them,” Mr Cheng wrote.
Taxpayers to pay for the increased operating costs incurred by dorm operators amid dormitory lockdowns
Earlier, it was reported 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.
As a result of dormitory lockdowns, the utility bills of dormitory have increased sharply, according to dorm operators.
The dorm operators 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.
Responding to the complaints from dorm operators, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on 11 May said 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. 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
However, MOM was quick to say that such support is only temporary and “in view of the ongoing Covid-19 infections in the dormitories”.