Photo of cashless kiosk from Straits Times

When interviewed by local state media Straits Times, most Singapore businesses revealed that they are passing the cashless payment surcharge to customers. Ranging from as much as S$32 for budget airline AirAsia to S$1.50 at Golden Village movie theatres, the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s push for a Smart Nation using cashless payment are expected to prop up prices by a further 3%.

Taxi fares paid for using credit cards incur a 10% surcharge, and most convenience shops charge 20 cent per transaction when using cashless payment. Even for government-owned hawker centres, consumers have to pay more for a loaded prepaid card to make food purchase.

The charges run in contrary to China’s cashless payment model, where Chinese nationals transact for free. At his 2017 National Day Rally Speech, multi-millionaire Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he admires China’s economic model and that government organisations, starting from MRT and hospitals, will start eliminating cash payments. Singapore businesses and consumers are however not receptive to his impractical idea, and most continue to transact in cash. Government-linked businesses like hawker centres which penalise cash payment are boycotted by the public, with many of these newly-built food centres in financial stress.

Lee Hsien Loong’s push for a cashless payment model is however not as noble as he made it sound like. The world’s most expensive politican’s motives are primarily profit-oriented. With documented transactions, businesses  will find it harder to under-declare their earnings for tax reporting. With the banks under his control, the dictator Prime Minister is also able to trace individual’s spending habits and enhance his surveillance on the population.