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The Shisha Ban: One More High-Handed Move by a Government that Doesn’t Care about Destroying People’s Livelihoods

Civil servants don’t have to worry too much about their rice bowl – it’s supposedly iron in nature. Government scholars too don’t have much to fear. If they can’t cut it, well, at most they get sent to NTUC.

What about the small-time businessmen in Singapore who spend their days worrying about maintaining their assets, covering costs, and earning just enough to feed their families? They don’t have a ‘NTUC’ to fall back on. It stings when their livelihoods are taken away, and when it’s done on a whim, by the government, the pain penetrates deeper.

Little India Businessmen Forced into a Corner

Redwire spoke to small-time liquor stores in Little India when the alcohol ban was imposed. Some lost up to 50% of their revenue. They were forced to close. Others survived, but barely.

This, because of the government’s high-handed stance, a knee-jerk reaction to a riot that the police shamefully tried to contain but couldn’t.

Further investigation revealed that it wasn’t the alcohol that was to blame – it was a sense on the part of the rioters that justice wasn’t served.

Well, if anything, the government’s ban merely intensified the injustice.

Shisha Shop Owners Furious at ‘Unfair’ Ban

It takes pretty much to set up a shisha shop, as owners told Redwire reporters. You have to buy and store specialty pipes, shisha tobacco, and also craft a store environment that customers would find appealing to have a smoke.

All this goes into start-up costs of a business, which puts owners in debt until they can repay their loans. It would cost about S$100,000 just to set up a small shisha joint. This, not including monthly costs.

How would you feel if after all that work, you were forced to close? Especially, if the research on shisha is so mixed and varied that a proper conclusion cannot be drawn as to whether it’s harmful or not.

‘No Explanation Needed, Just Get the Hell out’

If you’re going to run someone out of business, at least give them a proper reason. Owners have many questions on their minds, and are furious that these have gone unanswered.

What has changed? Why now? Why not cigarettes, which almost all studies actually agree are harmful to the human body?

None of these questions have been met with a proper response by the government.

Could a jacking-up of cigarette prices be waiting in the wings?

In Sum

You couldn’t set up just any type of business anywhere in Singapore back in the 1960s and ‘70s — at least, not without the approval of the triads.

If you did, you had to be prepared for some painful consequences.

It looks like the strong-arm tactics have taken a different turn this time.

A man in white shining armour isn’t necessarily a knight.

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