Sweden leads the charge, planning to go entirely cashless within the year with its economy going fully digital. Just as it led the world back in the day by issuing the world’s first bank notes, it pioneers the way to phase it out. Studies suggest that Sweden could eliminate cash entirely by 2024.
China has been steadily working to enable a cashless country with a massive government push for the adoption of the e-yuan. Two private banks have ended services for coins and banknotes.
The same trajectory is mirrored in South Korea where their 100 per cent mobile phone adoption rate allows all to transact digitally. They also have keen interest in blockchain technology and talk of the S-coin is underway.
THE SURPRISING RESILIENCE OF CASH
But as it turns out, cash continues to surprise us with its resilience. In a 2014 opinion piece on the Atlantic titled The Hubris of Trying to Eliminate Cash, Conor Friedersdorf makes the case for the retention of cash payments in society, citing the check-and-balance mechanism it has on centralised power and its allowance for customer privacy.
Cash, he argues, adds a layer of resilience to our financial system, enabling a diversification between the physical and virtual. Of the advocates and evangelists of a cashless tomorrow, he says, “They imagine that simplicity (of a cashless society) on paper will lead to real-world utopia”.
In a 2018 parliament response to whether Singapore is seeking to eliminate cash, then Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam answered that Singapore does not aim to be a completely cashless society. “Cash has been with us for centuries, and will be around for quite some time more,” he said.