Singapore

Government seeks ideas for cashless payment at hawker centres

What e-payment technology will work at the hundreds of hawker centres, coffee shops and heartland shops here?

Four government agencies have put out a combined Request for Information (RFI) to crowdsource ideas to find the answer in what is Singapore's first coordinated effort on e-payment at these places.

The agencies are the National Environment Agency, Housing and Development Board, Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office.

In a joint statement yesterday, they said: "Given the low-value transactions in these places, the solution must be affordable for the merchants, for payments between them and their customers and between them and their suppliers."

The move comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech that Singapore is lagging behind many cities in going cashless.

According to documents seen by The Straits Times, the agencies said the solution should include PayNow, an instant fund-transfer system launched last month, and should inter-operate with international schemes such as Visa and Mastercard.

Transaction fees imposed on merchants should also be negligible or standardised so merchants are not inclined to accept one scheme over another.

The problem is that many e-payment schemes - although common at foodcourts, supermarkets and department stores - are not interoperable.

"A settlement within the same day would be viewed favourably," the agencies said, addressing hawkers' and merchants' concerns over cash flow.

The four would not disclose the timeline for system rollout.

The RFI will help the agencies prepare a Request for Proposal to co-create solutions with the private sector, or kick-start procurement processes.

Those interested can access the RFI on GeBiz. The closing date for submission is Sept 15.

Mr Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, hopes the coffee shop owners and senior citizens' concerns can be addressed.

"Regardless of... what card you hold, it should be a one-touch, one-tap system so seniors can handle it," said Mr Hong, whose group represents more than 400 coffee shops.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAYNA TOH

hawkerNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCYLee Hsien Loong