SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching, censured ex-Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng for “scolding” Singaporeans who have yet to go cashless in two separate Facebook posts yesterday (1 March).
Mr Cheng’s habit of disparaging businesses that accept cash-only payments has rubbed many Singaporeans the wrong way for some time now. His aversion to businesses that have declined to go cashless in today’s digital economy is well-documented on his Facebook page.
Some small businesses have decided to forgo going cashless, given the service fees that online payment platforms charge, while others feel that cash is safer. This hasn’t stopped Mr Cheng from naming and shaming businesses like food stalls that only accept cash payments. He has also called for a boycott of such businesses—an idea that has been promptly condemned by most Singaporeans online.
Perhaps what is most disturbing about the ex-NMPs tirades on this topic is the strong language he has used to describe those with opposing views. He initially called businesses that haven’t gone cashless “backwards” and “shameful” before labelling Singaporeans “primitive people, who find it controversial to boycott merchants who offer cash as only payment option.”
He has also suggested that food stall owners have refused to go cashless to “hide cash transactions from the tax man” while saying that Singaporeans will become “peasants” if this issue persists. The establishment figure even criticised a ruling party MP for celebrating the opening of an ATM as he thinks banks should be closing ATMs to push people to go cashless.
While some Singaporeans have supported the notion Mr Cheng stands for, he has received brickbats for the way he has gone about pushing for a more cashless society. The way that he has denigrated those who have yet to go cashless has earned the ire of the Prime Minister’s wife.
Mdm Ho first chided Mr Cheng in a Facebook post on 16 Feb. Sharing a netizen’s heartwarming account of how a “cash-only” eatery allowed her to pay later when she did not have cash, Mdm Ho said: “Indeed there is no need to shame others for using cash – What matters is that the heart is in the right place…”
It has become clear that the ex-NMP’s continued tirades have troubled Mdm Ho. Sharing one of the posts Mr Cheng made on 14 Feb, she said yesterday: “… Why scold others for insisting on one or the other medium of exchange? In many cases, sympathy, empathy and a helping hand would help speed up the transition.”
She further rebuked in a second post, just minutes later: “Encouraging folks to go cashless or go digital is the way to go. But scolding folks for sticking with cash is not the way to bring society forward together.”
This is not the first time Mdm Ho has crossed swords with the former NMP. In 2021, the pair sparred on Facebook over whether tracking unlinked COVID-19 cases is meaningful.
In any case, it is unlikely that Mr Cheng will change his stance on the cashless issue. He said in one recent post: “You can be disagree, you can be angry, you can abuse me, write articles on me but I will NOT BACK DOWN.”
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