Sweden, travel to the country where cash will be a memory

Cash could disappear in Sweden by 2023

It’s called “cashless society” and for some time it has also a capital where you pay for coffee with an ATM and you use your credit card even in church to light candles or make offers. Cash could disappear in Sweden by 2023. From 2010 to date, the use of coins and banknotes in the Scandinavian country has gone from 40 to 10% and most retailers do not accept cash payments.

Exactly the opposite of what happens in Italy where merchants often do not accept credit cards within a certain threshold. And so, while we remain at the bottom of the European rankings for the use of electronic money, in Sweden on the contrary the concern expressed by many is to remain without money (cash): a year ago it was in fact the same Swedish Central Bank to sound the alarm for the almost absolute volatilization of cash in some areas of the country, particularly in the North. The Riksbank has expressed the fear of the disappearance of the infrastructures necessary for the use of banknotes. In “case of catastrophes – he explained – having entire regions completely devoid of money in paper or metal form can represent a serious problem, because it would make payments impossible even for purchases essential to survival”.

Only pay with cards

In 2017, cash in circulation in Sweden fell to its lowest level since 1990, with a collapse of as much as 40% compared to its 2007 peak. The decrease in “cash” in 2016 and 2017 was the largest ever recorded in history of the Scandinavian Kingdom. And so in Stockholm it can happen to hear or often see a sentence, written on the notices of the bar counters, at the supermarket counters or at the restaurant: “No cash”. “Consumers have asked for simpler digital payment methods,” explained Swedish deputy finance minister Agorà Per Bolund, as well as banks that have reduced costs. Transferring and transporting a lot of money is risky and expensive. Cases of fraud and identity theft have increased compared to previous levels, but crime in general has dropped. In digital form it is easier for the Authorities to monitor capital flows “. The most common payment method in Sweden is Swish, an app that has access to the current accounts of those who register and pay or transfer money in an almost immediate time.

Alongside the enthusiasm, however, a debate is spreading globally on the disadvantages of the so-called “cashless society”. As is known, less cash means less money laundering, fewer robberies, fewer thefts, less evasion, less crime, less inefficiencies linked to liquidity management, less human errors in accounting matters. But the other side of the coin is: more management costs (the issue of credit card fees remains central) for merchants and small businesses and above all the risk of a huge, global Big Brother.

Estonia, defined by the New Yorker as the “Digital Republic”, faced several problems from this point of view. The country of tormented history, “with its ferocious love of freedom, with its bloody fate of slavery”, is today one of the digital leaders in the world. Everything is done online, except for a few things like getting married, divorcing and selling or buying a house. But in November 2017, the Estonian government was forced to freeze all digital residences to deal with a serious security problem, which made identity theft possible. Kaspar Korjus, the e-Residency project manager who gave his resignation at the beginning of the year, told about it. In a post he summarized all the work done to make Estonia the first “digital nation”. “They had to increase the security of all their systems after digitizing anything – explains Silvia Semenzin, from medical visits to renewal of the driving license, from loan applications to identity cards. We do everything with the Blockchain, to receive as few hacker attacks as possible, but is the Blockchain so safe if used and governed by the central state through some private companies whose main purpose is profit? In addition, in Estonia there are about one million residents, how large would this system work? ” Questions that still remain unanswered.