Fans who put forward the Bank of England as the world’s oldest central bank (1694) are swiftly reminded that the actual oldest central bank is the Sveriges Riksbank (Swedish Central Bank, 1668). So, when Stefan Ingves, Governor of the Sveriges Riksbank, gave remarks to the IMF recently, just published in the IMF Finance & Development newsletter here, they naturally attracted attention.
The opening lines of his remarks are striking, if not totally surprising: “Sweden is rapidly moving away from cash. Demand for cash has dropped by more than 50 percent over the past decade as a growing number of people rely on debit cards or a mobile phone… More than half of all bank branches no longer handle cash. Seven out of ten consumers say they can manage without cash… [a]nd cash now accounts for just 13 percent of payments in stores.”
His remarks continue to pour cold water on cryptocurrencies, (“I do not consider these so-called currencies to be money…”), and raises doubts about the future of central banking itself, (“The state cannot entirely withdraw from its social responsibilities. But exactly what its new role will become remains to be seen.”)
There’s something ironic about the world’s oldest central bank leaning into the most advanced anti-cash policies in the world. Then again, if you see Sveriges Riksbank as a stalking horse for their larger brethren in the anti-cash movement, then it all makes sense.
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