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When Russia refuses cash

When Russia refuses cash

28 2018 June LJ cover – Когда Россия откажется от наличных денег
Tags: Russia, Economy, Money, Analytics

The proposal to limit the circulation of cash regularly emerges in the Russian information field for more than ten years. However, despite the declared fight against corruption, it also regularly goes to the bottom. Why even those Russians who are accustomed to electronic money, against restrictions for cash? And what these restrictions can give?

На этот раз вопрос подняли банкиры. Затравщиком выступил глава «Русфинанс банка» Сергей Озеров. Он напомнил, что в некоторых странах Западной Европы (например, в Италии) покупатель не может оплатить покупку наличными, если ее стоимость превышает тысячу евро. «Мы к этому тоже придем, это вопрос времени», - предупредил он.

The deputy chairman of the board of Sberbank, Alexander Torbakhov, agrees with his colleague. According to him, "one can talk for a long time about the fight against corruption, but why not forbid to pay with cash with suitcases?" "If the state helped in this movement, it would be quite healthy," he added.

Indeed, the state policy in this matter is difficult to call unambiguous and consistent. The benefits of cash payment restrictions are regularly discussed in the State Duma, the government and the Kremlin, but this is not reflected in legislation.

In 2012, the Bank of Russia and the Ministry of Finance launched a discussion on limiting cash balances. The corresponding draft law was submitted to the State Duma, but it was never adopted.

In January 2017, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov also proposed to limit cash payment in case of expensive purchases. He was supported by the head of the committee of the lower house on budget and taxes Andrei Makarov and head of the financial market committee Anatoly Aksakov, but stressed that the implementation of this idea should be "step by step".

Пресс-секретарь президента Дмитрий Песков 21 февраля подтвердил, что движение в сторону отказа от наличных и перехода к оплате картами будет, но его темп зависит от российских реалий в плане распространения банковских услуг. А уже 27 февраля Силуанов заявил следующее:

"While we have postponed these issues in order to act accurately and not create any imbalances in cash circulation."

Radical supporters of the restriction of payment in cash (up to their complete cancellation) like to accuse the government that it thus indulges the corrupt officials. But the main problem is that most of the citizens of Russia - for all their hatred of bribes - oppose any restrictions in the sphere of cash circulation. Last March VTsIOM published the results of the poll, according to which, "the proposal to limit cash payments to more than three-quarters of Russians (80%) is considered more a violation of the rights of citizens than a measure to combat crime, bribery, tax evasion."

"Payment for purchases by card or check for the majority of residents of our country is not yet a daily rule," commented sociologists on the survey data.

Действительно, несмотря на то, что по данным ЦБ, доля оплаты товаров и услуг картами выросла с 3,5% в 2009-м до 38% в 2017-м, больше половины граждан России по-прежнему предпочитают старые добрые наличные. Но даже те, кто привык платить картой, всё равно выступают против каких-либо ограничений. Причины называют разные. Тут и недоверие к банковской системе после гиперинфляции и дефолта 1990-х, и значительная доля «серого» сектора труда, в котором оплата происходит наличными, и страх экспроприации государством средств, на которые у человека не окажется «справки».

The exotic reason for the inadmissibility of refusing cash was the patriarch Cyril. According to him, "the church is very concerned that modern technical means can totally limit human freedom." He cited the example of "one of the European countries," where people wishing to obtain citizenship are offered to watch a video about the life of the country, its customs and laws, in which the theme of LGBT is presented "in colors". Only if the person agrees with everything he saw, "he passes the screening."

"And if access to finance will be limited to this kind of conditions? That's about these dangers today, the church speaks at the top of its voice, "the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church summarized.

It is unlikely that most Russian citizens seriously fear that paying for a card will need to publicly support gays. But in the main they agree with the patriarch and do not want any restrictions on cash.

In addition, it should be understood that such restrictions alone can not eradicate corruption. Yes, unrecorded cash received as a result of bribery will be more difficult to spend on an expensive car or real estate, but it is not so easy to do now. A variety of "laundries" that turn "gray" and "black" money into supposedly "honestly earned", have long existed almost all over the world. If restrictions on cash are introduced, bribe takers, "hauliers", "decision makers" will remain in their places, just a percentage for "money laundering" will grow somewhat.

Учитывая непростую общественную реакцию на действительно назревшую пенсионную реформу, резкое подорожание бензина и многие другие проблемы, вряд ли правительство в ближайшие месяцы (а возможно, что и годы) будет педалировать тему ограничения оплаты наличными. За тысячелетия человеческой цивилизации люди настолько привыкли к наличным – бумаге, золоту, ракушкам каури и так далее, что отказ от этой привычки вряд ли будет простым и быстрым.

But as you enter the active economic life of a generation that does not remember the banking problems of 1990 and for which payment by card is even more natural and familiar than paper money, the "suitcases of cash" will naturally go down in history. And then the legislator will simply have to fix the already existing situation.

Anton Krylov
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