Oh dear. So much for the Lisbon agenda and all that.
The central banks are charged with making the European economy more competitive, and replacing cash with electronic transactions is an easy win in this regards. Yet the central banks income, as we drone on and on about here, comes from the least efficient payment mechanism of all, cash. Surely there’s some tension here?
Peter concluded “So will the EU win the ‘War on Cash’ and achieve improved efficiency in payments? Without focus and leadership this appears unlikely. Fragmentation will grow as will the eurozone’s costly cash mountain. Sadly the indications are Europe’s payments sector productivity will take years to achieve best in world performance”. A disappointing conclusion, but Peter is, of course, right.
Is it merely a question of introducing a functioning market with proper pricing, or are there some entrenched interests (eg, drug dealers) set against cash replacement? Peter quotes Gertrude, as I did, to show the European Central Bank’s leadership, but I would argue that if Gertrude wanted to take some practical action she has plenty of options: she could stop printing 500 euro notes, for one thing. The alternative (my favoured strategy) would be to rely on competition and enterprise rather than regulation to deliver the improved competitiveness that she wants in Europe. The ECB should be agitating to make the KYC/AML requirements less onerous for small payments, to make it easier for non-banks to compete in the payments world and to make national governments use electronic means for welfare, benefits and pensions. If they took some positive action in these directions, then Peter’s analysis might take a turn for the better.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]