The Austrian Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has stated that the Austrian people have a “right” to cash amongst fears that increasing mobile payments could become restricting.
In conversation with the Kronen Zeitung and other Austrian news outlets, the Chancellor stated an intent to include notes and coins in the Austrian constitution as a protected payment method.
Austria’s National Bank has confirmed that cash is seen its ubiquity wane in recent years, and whilst they say this trend is likely to continue, they have assured that there are no current plans to make Austria a completely cashless nation.
Cash’s decline is not isolated to Austria.
GlobalData’s thematic research into mobile payments estimates that mobile payment market will grow by a CAGR of 21% over the next decade and was already worth $55trn in 2021.
Cash’s global downturn in favour for electronic payments has been accredited to the rise of smartphone technology as well as the recent Covid-19 pandemic.
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However, Nehammer’s statements about cash have come under scrutiny for being right-wing.
Austria’s populist party FPO (Freedom Party of Austria) have already submitted four motions to Austria’s parliament to “preserve” cash since March 2021.
In a statement released after Nehammer’s comments, the FPO accuse Nehammer of “theft of ideas” and credit the Chancellor’s apparent change of heart down to sentiment polls ahead of the 2024 election.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has taken a similar stance to cash.
Back in October 2022, Meloni raised the cap amount on cash payments despite the rise in underground economies that the rise could cause. The Prime Minister credited the move to support small businesses.
However more left-wing criticism of online payments has also appeared in recent years.
In his book Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto and the War for our Wallets, journalist and former financial broker Brett Scott writes that cash not only “protects privacy” but is also “resilient in the face of both natural disasters and banking failures.”
Despite this security, Scott believes that cash is continually being presented as an “outdated barrier to progress.”
Scott’s book also posits that the growing infrastructure of online payment systems “locks” people into previously unimaginable levels of surveillance.
Surveillance claims that are also echoed by the UK’s Big Brother Watch.
Writing for The Telegraph, Big Brother Watch’s Director Sikie Carlo claimed that the problem with a cashless society “is that it is a surveillance society” where every payment leaves a digital trail.
After his statements, Chancellor Nehammer has reportedly asked Finance Minister Magnus Brunner to write up a proposal of the constitutional changes.