Photo of ticket machine from Straits Times

Effecting next month in March, the Singapore government will be removing all cash top-up services at the passenger service centres of every train station. State media Straits Times describe the move similar to drug addiction, calling it “the first step by authorities to wean commuters off cash to pay for public transport.” Passengers who need to top up their EZlink cards with cash will have to use self-help ticketing machines, which is available only until 2020.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first introduced the cashless initiative during last year’s National Day Rally, where he said he wants to emulate China on eliminating cash transactions. The Transport Ministry soon said that they will remove all cash transactions by 2020.

The casualties of the shortsighted government policy are the elderly, poor and students who usually do not have a bank account or a bank card. The move however will boost the profits of Singapore banks and neighbourhood supermarkets like NTUC, which are all Temasek Holdings-owned corporations. The PM’s wife, Ho Ching, is the CEO of Temasek Holdings, and desperately need additional income domestically to fill her overseas investment losses.

The Singapore government has also set up new coffeeshops which charges an extra 10% for local residents who insist on using cash. At KK Hospital, if one wishes to pay cash for medical services, they will have to walk over a hundred metres to a designated cashier for payment.

Singaporeans are hitting back the unpopular cashless policy by refusing to pay via card. According to a recent state media interview, over 80% of the patrons at a coffeeshop in Jurong continues to transact in cash.