Former NMP on PM Lee’s push towards a Smart Nation: “We will be a stupid nation that is only ‘smart’ because our Government told us so.”


By Phyllis Lee

Following his initial post rebutting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s suggestions on healthy living, former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng put up another Facebook post last night claiming that the government should not have to lead Singapore for the country to become a Smart Nation.

In his National Day Rally speech last evening, PM Lee highlighted the importance of transitioning into a Smart Nation. Other than conveying how technology can aid citizens in their daily lives and within public areas, he also pointed out that Singapore still lags behind other countries in the area of cashless, electronic payments.

He brought up a story of Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, who discovered that even roadside hawkers accepted electronic payments in China a few years ago.

He said: “So when Chinese visitors come to Singapore and find they have to use cash, they ask: ‘How can Singapore be so backward?’”

In response to this, Calvin Cheng said:

“PM Lee remarked that visitors from China find us backward in terms of using e-payments.

This is true, and in fact I would go further to say that we are even more backward than what PM Lee suggests.


In China, e-payments and a ‘cashless society’ largely grew from private enterprise. Xi Jinping or his predecessors did not have to go on national TV to urge China to go cashless. He did not have to get the Government to intervene to consolidate e-payment systems, or even contemplate ‘banning cash’ from their subways.

These e-payment systems developed from the ingenuity and innovation of entrepreneurs such as Jack Ma (Alipay) and Pony Ma (Wechat Pay). Consumers did not start using e-payment systems because the Government told them to do so; they did it because it was more convenient and more efficient. Businesses did not adopt e-payment systems because the Government told them they must be part of a smart nation – they did so because it was more profitable (WePay and Alipay charged them less than credit card companies) and their customers found it better.

The SmartNation initiative is necessary.

But if Singapore and Singaporeans always have to rely on the Government to tell us what to do, and businesses cannot innovate and provide the best solutions to their customers without Government intervention, then Singapore is finished.

We will be a stupid nation that is only ‘smart’ because our Government told us so.

(Maybe we are too reliant on the G telling us what to do. Vicious cycle. People becoming reliant, waiting for instructions, and the G gives instructions like we expect, which makes us even more reliant. And so on. Maybe the G should take a more hands off approach and allow those who don’t innovate to shrivel and go extinct.)”


  1. I am against going cashless. Many Singaporeans face cash flow difficulties and can barely maintain their bank account above empty. What happens to this group of people ??

  2. Cashless may apply to shopping center, train and buses many other transport such as taxi which need cash flows preferred cash than cashless. If everything go cashless than what is the point to print currency, do you use cashless in a hawker centre for a cup of coffee which cost a dollar or less. PM have no agenda in his speech and no inspiration at all.

    • To have a cash card, you have to deposit a certain amount to they card, and card does not come free,there’s a fee for the card,moreover there’s also an expiry date. Its actually paying in advance and I wonder who makes the interest?

    • Guess who will benefit the most when we go cashless? Interest and fees goes to ????? Guess who will hold a major share in such company ? When there is $$$$$ and potentially tons of it . Someone it gonna be very very interested . That was just a brief intro . Just be ready for a bloody big vacuum cleaner with super power suction , good luck to us. Physically cashless , broke bankrupt will be the common happening

  3. Going cashless? Yes of cause. Will the gov give a helping hand? With all the increasing cost, I am afraid more people going to be “cashless” soon.

  4. He should add one more line. It is the G that stifle any creative or entrepreneurship in Singaporeans

    Our educational system just test us on our memory skill

  5. Our PM….surely out of times…no wonder Sg going down just like our MRT systems breakdowns…like drinking water…Got nothing to say just shut up Maybe make you looks better…now you seems like a fool..

  6. “Scott Shay, Chairman of Signature Bank, warned about the totalitarian temptations that exist in a cash-free world when he wrote in a column for CNBC, “…It is not too far-fetched to wonder if the day might come when the health records of an overweight individual would lead to a situation in which they find that any sugary drink purchase they make through a credit or debit card is declined.…There is,”
    he continued, “…a sinister risk…a cashless society would certainly give government unprecedented access to information and power over citizens.” Also, there is little to indicate that governments will refrain from using this power to destroy freedom and anonymity.

    Tim Price, in his book, The War on Cash, warns the complete abolition of cash threatens our individual freedoms and rights. “The authorities are associating cash with being old-fashioned, behind the times. They are trying to introduce a social stigma around it,” he writes, “and humiliate every ‘poor old sap’ fumbling for change at the supermarket. This is a deliberate ploy to usher in an era of total control over your money and life.”

  7. The ruling party has completely lost touch with ordinary s’porean citizens, ignore and disregard s’poreans stuggling of overcoming the pricing increase of daily neccessities products and increase cost of living expenses…

  8. Is this idea of transforming SG into a smart nation new? What has PAP been doing to achieve their dream? They are only good in cashless system for collecting more money from the public! ERP gantry to be replaced by satellite system is really a smart system!

  9. While the use of smartphone has reached such a extensive level, I just wonder how much each phone user in China has to pay to the service providers monthly! I understand that low subscription fee for phone services in South Korea is the reason for it’s ability in game development. So, I reckon that this same logic must apply in the case of developing a cashless society via the smartphone. Whoever familiar with this topic please enlighten us, thanks so much!

  10. The China cashless system came about because of the inefficient state controlled banking system. Alipay and wechat became the unofficial banking system that is free from bureaucratic control for every common man in the street. So we have to look at things in perspective.

    When Alibaba was listed, I read an economics article that the real money spinner was in Alipay which they kept private. Because it is really operating as a bank that bypasses the cumbersome banking regulations.

    Singapore has to play catch up because we have an established and efficient banking system using Nets, atms and retail systems. It is therefore harder as we have to get all the banks to come together to work on a common platform when each has already invested a lot on their own network, systems and hardware. I think this is the same dilemma faced by all countries with a long established banking system. Without government intervention and push to integrate and work together, we will all lag behind China and the emerging economies that leverage on their influence and financial might.

    Having said that, I personally tried out Paynow and find that it is not well explained and reflects maybe a half hearted attitude by local banks to implement it fully. We still have a long way to go but all the more reason we need to look for solutions to remain competitive and relevant. Maybe an entirely new enterprise to start a new fully cashless bank from scratch.

  11. Cashless payment gateway like wechat pay n alipay bypasses BANKS. Banks n goberment r buddies. Bank lose $, goberment lose $ too. N Singaporeans r so sterotyped that if goberment say bangsai is not regulated yet, all 70% Singaporean will constipate till goberment say legal then they chiong for toilet. Law by law good citizens.

  12. rather not cashless, else they can track everything you spend and where you spend. big brother is v scary. cash is the best.
    stupid china man, they don’t know what is the value of privacy.

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