Infected bank notes are now again under focus due to Coronavirus spread and their role in the propagation of the disease. Some experts believe that they are involved in the disease’s spread in addition to other infectious diseases already known to be spreading through them. Amid this latest crisis and renewed concerns regarding dirty cash, the world is expected to move towards e-cash and other digital payment options instead of cash in a much more rapid manner.
Bank notes have been around for several hundred years. Initially, they were receipts for gold deposits that the government’s central bank issued and could be exchanged as money. Bank notes were previously made of cotton and nowadays a complex mixture of paper and cotton is used. Concerns regarding the infected bank notes have been around for a while and only been exacerbated by the Coronavirus scam. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of USA, a Dollar note lasts for as long 4-15 years in the market before returning to the bank for reissuing. Medical experts believe that this timeframe is long enough to have a plethora of pathogens and germs to accumulate on the physical cash resulting in transmission of various diseases. The fabric-like structure of the bank notes help these germs to have a permanent setting on the cash. In addition to germs, filthy and toxic substances like human faeces and biowaste as well as even drugs are known to have a footprint on cash due to the wide use of physical hard cash in the drug trade.
Coming back to the Coronavirus, it is believed that dirty cash and handshakes could have been a major cause of the disease’s spread in many countries. In Italy for example where e-cash has been slow to catch on as well as USA and Spain, the Coronavirus has spread more than anywhere else in the world and dirty cash could be a reason behind it. Italy, the hardest hit country in Europe is among the 35 most cash-preferring nations in the world and cash transaction make up almost 68% of transactions at the point of sale according to a study done by the European Central Bank. Italians also like to physically greet each other by kissing cheeks and hugging and thus along with the dirty cash conundrum, these customs resulted in a much speedier spread of the virus.
But, after the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the country that has left hundreds of neighbourhoods around the country grieving for their dead, cash is now being ditched in favour of digital alternatives. According to N26 GmbH, a bank based in Germany, cash transactions are already declining in the country as well as across the continent. Countries are already desperately trying to disinfect the existing cash in circulation. Mass efforts are being made across the world to disinfect ATM machines and cash being withdrawn and deposited into the banks. China has reportedly sanitized tens of thousands of ATM cash machines as well as banks across the country to help stop the spread of the virus with some measure of success. Many other countries are looking to follow this example.
According to Andrea Isola, N26 general manager for Italy:
In the last weeks we registered a slight increase in the number of mobile wallet transactions, and we expect this trend to continue, as more people adjust their everyday habits to reduce the risk of transmission,
But, in the long-term many people have learnt that the cash problem has only one long-term solution and that is to go digital. Most of the money held by banks is already digital, almost 90% of it and the remaining 10% needs to be digitized as well. So, complete digitization is not a question of “if” anymore but rather “when” and we will see it soon enough due to the Coronavirus situation. Digital cash can exist in many forms. For cryptocurrency enthusiasts and digital payment proponents, the advent of e-cash will help businesses to grow, reduce banking costs and eventually move towards a more decentralized existence.
For cryptocurrrency advocates, the preferrence for e-cash will help both cryptocurrencies and stablecoins to grow. Stablecoins are expected to take the lead here as they offer a direct solution to the current problem. Payment providers like Western Union, VISA, Mastercard, etc have high transactions costs, take a lot of time and have geographical limitations. With USD stablecoins, it has been shown that the current system can be used with effectiveness with no revolutionary changes in infrastructure required. So, in the event of an end to physical cash, stablecoins are going to take a slice of the market with ease and cement their existence.
Eventually, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will prove to be a useful store of value in the future as well but it will take time as it will need a complete paradigm shift in thinking of the public and mass acceptance. Bitcoin especially will grow in stature and importance because the USD stablecoins will continue to inflate because they are pegged to the US Dollar and the reserve banks are being more careless in their money manipulation than ever. Recently, the US Federal Reserve Bank announced a new trillion dollar-plus Quantitative Easing approach that will create around $2 trillion in new money for the system. This behaviour is expected in the near future and will only increase the probability of cryptocurrencies to succeed.
All in all, e-cash is going to be the future because of dirty cash and its consequences that humans have been dealing for a while. Coronavirus has proved to be the last straw on the camel’s back when it comes to rejection of physical cash in favour of digital alternatives. E-cash’s preference in turn will create further opportunities for cryptocurrencies and fintech solutions to thrive in the future. This will in turn, help promote trade and commerce around the world, thus helping us get out of the financial recession that is being caused due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Image source: pixabay.com
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