Singapore Seeks to Push New Year Money Gifting Tradition Online

Singapore’s tradition of gifting new bank notes during the Lunar New Year celebrations generates the same level of emissions as charging 5.7 million smart-phones for five days. The city state’s central bank is hoping to push this practice online.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is encouraging people to use electronic versions of so-called hong bao -- a monetary gift in a red envelope or packet given during special occasions -- to reduce queues and waste, it said in a statement Monday.

Those who want to give physical notes during the celebrations that start Feb. 12, except people aged 60 and above and people with disabilities, will have to make online reservations through five banks to collect them, the regulator said. New notes can be withdrawn without bookings at automatic-teller machines run by DBS Group Holdings Ltd., it said.

Singapore, where most of the 5.7 million population is of Chinese descent, celebrates the Lunar New Year with people giving crisp new bank notes in red packets and companies competing with elaborate packaging. The production of the new notes for the festival generates about 330 tons of carbon emissions each year, according to the MAS.

The coming Lunar New Year “offers an opportunity to spread the benefits of e-gifting, and to forge new traditions with our families and friends,” MAS assistant managing director Bernard Wee said in the statement. “E-gifting helps reduce the queues at banks, and also helps to reduce the carbon emissions.”

China, which observes the new year with a week-long holiday, is already giving virtual hong baos. The number of people who sent or received the packets via We Chat during the festival rose to 823 million in 2019, up from 688 million in 2018, according to data from research firm Statista.

As well as DBS, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., United Overseas Bank Ltd., Standard Chartered Plc and Malayan Banking Bhd. will offer pre-orders for bank notes. The MAS is also encouraging fintech firms to develop digital solutions for e-gifting.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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