Forum: Let dormitory operators face the music themselves

I applaud Mr Cheng Shoong Tat for his letter (Why foot the bill for dorm operators that have profited for years?, May 16).

He is correct to question why taxpayers should foot the bill to clear up a mess the dormitory operators have profited from.

Singapore has always taken pride in being a beacon for global free enterprise. We are frequently reminded that our prosperity is based on a system of being open to business.

We have argued that our system works because it does not mollycoddle people amid the realities of the free market.

Our social assistance programmes are based on "helping people to help themselves".

We help people to retrain and reskill when they lose their jobs, rather than support them financially when they are not working.

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.

The dormitory operators are not innovative start-ups coming up with market-disrupting products that will shape the future. They are not enterprises that hire many Singaporeans in high-paying jobs.

They make vast profits - Centurion Corp, for example, made $103.8 million on revenue of $133 million for the 12 months ended Dec 31 last year - 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?

Tang Li