SINGAPORE- Sixteen applications have been submitted from organisations looking to become "anchor operators" of childcare centres, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing revealed yesterday.
The outcome of the applications is expected to be made known in the first quarter of this year, he said, without giving details on how many applicants his ministry intends to pick. But some industry players say they expect only a handful to be selected.
The authorities announced last June that the anchor operator scheme would be widened to include commercial operators and voluntary welfare organisations.
Anchor operators get government help - such as rental subsidies and priority in securing Housing Board premises for new centres - in exchange for keeping fees low.
There are now only two anchor operators - NTUC's My First Skool and the PAP Community Foundation, which together run about a fifth of more than 1,000 childcare centres in Singapore.
Expanding the scheme could lead to cheaper and better pre-school programmes for the average Singaporean family.
Some of Singapore's biggest private pre-school operators have applied for the scheme, including EtonHouse. A joint proposal has also been submitted by Modern Montessori International (MMI) and Carpe Diem.
MMI's chairman T. Chandroo said the number of applications is "encouraging". This is despite the strict qualifying criteria, which require operators to provide a financial guarantee of six months of operating costs or $10 million, whichever is lower, among others.
"It shows people are interested in the scheme," Dr Chandroo said, but added that he thinks only two or three will be selected, as it is the first time the scheme has been expanded.
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