Top up kiosk at Yishun Park Hawker Centre from Google

Like true pragmatists, Singaporeans are letting their wallet do the protesting. The first “Smart Nation” hawker centre in Singapore that charge patrons 10% more for not using mobile application and demand 50 cents deposits for tray-return, is doing very badly. The economic boycott has been so effective that it now set the Singapore government thinking twice about applying similar “Smart Nation” initiatives in public amenities.

Yesterday (Apr 23), the Singapore government announced they will intervene to lend a hand to the failed “Smart Nation” project by offering free lunchtime parking and taxi discount coupons at Yishun Park Hawker Centre. However, the government was insistent not to scrap the tray-return system or revert back to normal prices for cash transactions. It is unlikely these would help to turn business around as Singaporeans prefer to patronise nearby coffeeshops that charge a flat-fee for food and provide gainful employment to elderly cleaners.

There are after all good reasons to boycott “Smart Nation” kopitiams. First, the cleaning industry would be severely affected by the tray-return system and elderly cleaners would likely see their salaries depressed further when their trade is no longer in demand. In recent years, employers were forced to raise cleaners’ salaries because there is a shortage of manpower.

Second, the “10% discount” system for mobile application cashless payments is actually in disguise a penalty system for cash-paying customers. Patrons would also be stuck with interest-free credit in each mobile app, and both patrons and hawker stall owners have to pay a commission to the merchant banks. There is also no convenience either, as patrons would have to download the app, which could also pose as a privacy and security issues.

The economic boycott hence must continue to let the government know it is a bad idea to go cashless. First-world economy Japan operate more efficiently than Singapore and China despite having a cash-is-king retail model. Nobody should be penalised for paying cash. To put it succinctly, Yishun Park Hawker Centre needs to fail for a better Singapore.

Attending or organising a protest is too dangerous in a dictatorship like Singapore. One of the newest protest models today is exactly such an economic boycott, similar that to sanctions employed by countries against rogue states. On the same note, Singaporeans can protest against propaganda fake news by boycotting state media news media and subscribing to social media news and international news sites like States Times Review. Things are looking positive as Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Mediacorp are fast losing readership and advertising revenue.

Alex Tan
STR Editor