World Economy

Swedish Opposition to Cash-Free Economy Gains Momentum

Swedish Opposition to Cash-Free Economy Gains MomentumSwedish Opposition to Cash-Free Economy Gains Momentum

On the front door of a bank only a block away from Stockholm’s Central Station is a sign that reads “Inga kontanter” with an English translation below: No cash available. Walk a few more blocks under the gray winter sky, and see signs hanging on the front doors of coffee shops that say “Endast kreditkort” or “Vi ar en kontanantfri coffee shop”—“only credit cards” and “we are a cash-free coffee shop,” respectively.

Amble through the gift shops of the ABBA Museum or Fotograsfika, a popular contemporary photography center, and signs near the register alert customers that they, too, do not accept cash, Pulitzer Center reported.

Less than 400 years after it became the first European country to introduce banknotes, Sweden is on track to become the world’s first cashless economy.

And while proponents of this no-bill world believe it will lead to a reduction in crime and save the government money, others are worried. Defenders of rural areas, small businesses and pensioners say that some people are being left behind, while other critics worry about the potential security risks.

Data from the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, also suggest that anger toward the decline in cash has increased. In 2016, 31% of survey respondents expressed negativity toward the decline, compared to 24% in 2014. The increase in negativity does not mean that respondents lack access to alternative means of payment; 97% of respondents in 2016 said that they had access to a bank card.

“It’s not a problem for me,” said Jan Andersson, chairman of PRO Skane, the southernmost branch of Sweden’s largest pensioners organization. “I have cards. I also use Swish. And I have Internet to pay my bills and so on. But a lot of people who are 75, 80 years old–we live longer and longer–especially among them, they are left behind.”

Bjorn Eriksson, former president of Interpol, the international police association, and one of the most visible opponents of a cash-free Sweden, hopes that Sweden never gets to a banknote-free economy.

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