Each week, TODAY’s long-running Big Read series delves into the trends and issues that matter. This week, we look at the rise of electronic payments in Singapore and how it can be improved. This is a shortened version of the full feature, which can be found here.
THE BIG PICTURE
As of 2022, more than 210,000 merchants operating across various service industries in Singapore, including retail stores in shopping malls and food stalls at hawker centres, offer SGQR as a means of payment acceptance, said Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnam in Parliament last year.
This accounts for over 90 per cent of merchants in Singapore, he added.
The SGQR which was launched in September 2018, combines multiple payment schemes into a single label.
Singapore is not the only country which is moving steadily towards cashless payments.
Several countries such as Sweden and China already have high e-payment adoption rates.
According to Sweden’s central bank Riksbank, the proportion of Swedes using cash fell from 39 to 9 per cent from 2010 to 2020.
Mr Nima, a Swede who moved to Singapore five years ago and is working in the financial technology industry, noted that Swedes in general, including the seniors, are more open to adopting new technology.
“The Swedes are okay with taking risks — they jump onto new technologies and new opportunities, seeing the upside instead of the risks,” said the 41-year-old, who declined to give his full name.
In China, many shops and even taxi drivers refuse to accept cash.
Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the centre for governance and sustainability at NUS Business School, said that vendors in China were offered numerous incentives to adopt WeChat and Alibaba-owned Alipay.
This resulted in many stores adopting both payment systems and even rejecting cash, leaving people, including seniors, with little choice but to learn how to pay with their phones.
Against the backdrop of such disruptions in services, business and technology experts told TODAY that having multiple payment options available is one way to ensure the resilience of the e-payment landscape here.
Associate Professor Liang Zhen Kai from the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS) said that he has two bank accounts — one of which he tops up regularly with a smaller amount for spending.
The other is a bank account that he uses only to save money.
Dr Douglas Streeter Rolph, a senior lecturer of finance at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, added that having multiple options would also allow for financial inclusion.
For instance, a store that accepts only Apple Pay may exclude those who could not afford an Apple smartphone.