On the 8th November last year India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced that all 500 and 1000 rupee notes could no longer be used as a medium of exchange – this accounts for 86% of cash in circulation. These notes could be exchanged for new ones by the end of the 2016.
Why did they outlaw the use of 500 and 1000 rupee notes?
- The main motivation was to remove the country of shadow economy millionaires hoarding of illegal cash. It is estimated that the shadow economy accounts for 20% of India’s GDP.
- Demonetisation increases the use of electronic banking allowing better tracking by tax authorities.
- The printing of new denomination money would hopefully inflate away the value of illegal cash in the shadow economy.
- Encourage people to deposit cash in the bank where it would earn interest
- Greater tax revenue for the government by firms declaring their earnings. This additional money could be used for infrastructure projects as well as tax incentives for companies.
What have been the problems?
- The Reserve Bank of India hasn’t been able to print the new money fast enough to replace the $207bn in rupees. There has been almost no new cash in rural banks and therefore keeping millions of farmers deposits that total $46bn. With limited cash in rural areas prices have collapsed.
- Factories in some cities have closed as employers can’t pay their workers although some have resorted to giving supermarket coupons to keep workers on the job.
- A dentist in an affluent part of Delhi has found a 70% fall in business since the cash ban.
- Outside the major cities cash transactions are very common and not recognising 500 and 1000 rupee notes provides a significant monetary shock for those areas
- Not all the shadow economy can move to a more legal environment with demonetisation and this represents a potential loss of economic activity.
- A shortage of cash has led to small businesses having to shut down.
In the long-run the forced priming of bank accounts and the switch to electronic payments will mobilize more money for lending and taxes.
Venezuela also became a country mostly without cash on December 16, sparking scattered protests and looting around the country as people fumed at having their already limited purchasing power cut off almost entirely.
As the nation’s most widely used banknote went out of circulation, the higher-denomination bills that were supposed to replace the 100-bolivar note had not yet arrived at banks or ATMs. That forced people to rely on credit cards and bank transfers or to try to make purchases with bundles of hard-to-find smaller bills often worth less than a penny each. The government was forced to delay the withdrawal of the 100-bolivar banknote until January 2. The graphic shows the volume of bank notes that are required to make $10m – Venezuela needs 14 sizable trucks to carry the 100-bolivar banknotes.
Source: The Economist – December 3rd 2016