I refer to the recent government’s initiatives to turn Singapore into a cashless society by getting food court stalls to use electronic payments, for example, at the Yishun Park Hawker Centre.
If one steps back and think critically, why would Singapore be changed into a more advanced society just from using an app to pay for a piece of tandoori chicken? Indeed, a simple transaction between two parties (the hawker and the customer) is now made unnecessarily complicated and troublesome by involving third parties (banks and network maintenance) that are not part of the transaction process.
In using the payment apps, the entire transaction is made more expensive for both the hawker and customer (guess who is going to pay the maintenance of the electronic payment network and also the bank charges … surely banks are not doing this service for free?) and more troublesome for the hawker, who will no longer can receive his money immediately.
So why the fuss about using electronic payments on a simple cash transaction when there are no obvious advantages to either the hawker and the customer?
The answer is that it benefits the government, albeit unfairly, in that all transactions are now recorded electronically and will be used to elicit taxes from the hawker. Expenditures are incurring on both the hawkers and customers (to maintain the network and to use the bank’s services) in order for the government to tax the hawkers more efficiently, while inconveniencing the hawker who is no longer able to receive his payments directly.
However, this is very unfair to the hawker. What is officially recorded is only his revenue, not his income. The hawker needs to pay for stall rental and utilities bills and he needs to buy raw materials to run his business. He needs to maintain his cooking wares, his dining wares, as well as to pay for a car, petrol and carpark (surely he could not be using the MRT to transport the chickens and the spices to his stall on MRT every day?). At the same time, the hawker needs to borne the cost of waste food on days that business is poor. All these expenditures add up and may not be transparent or obvious. The actual income of the hawker is likely to be a fraction of his revenue that is being recorded.
The government has thus far only spent efforts to record all the revenues received by the hawker (in the meantime, increasing the customers’ expenditure through marked-up prices so the part of the money we pay for the piece of tandoori chicken is now used to finance the electronic payment network maintenance and bank’s fees), without any corresponding efforts to accurately capture the expenditures incurred by the hawker.
Honestly, this just does not make sense for either the hawker and the customer. Why are the customers being dragged into paying more money so that the government can elicit more taxes from the hawkers?
At the end of the day, buying a piece of tandoori chicken is really a simple transaction between the hawker and the customer. So I will choose to pay cash anytime to benefit both the hawker and myself.