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Money – cash, digital, demonetized, photographed

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

I blogged recently about the 10,000 worthless Indian rupees I’d found myself stuck with after a recent visit to India.

IMG_2132 - useless Indian rupees - 540

After the Indian government demonetized their 1000 and 500 rupee notes – their two biggest banknotes, worth US$14.60 and US$7.30, respectively the idea quickly caught on. Soon the Venezuelan government announced they would demonetize their biggest banknote, the 100 bolivar which is worth all of 3c US. Or probably less. In both cases the idea was to flush out black money, money that was being hoarded or had escaped the tax net. Quite why anyone would hoard a note worth 3c and heading downwards remains a Venezuelan mystery.

Not wanting to be left out the Australian government hinted they might consider getting rid of the A$100 note, currently worth about US$73. Like the US$100 note the Aussie A$100 is rarely seen and little used on an everyday basis. The US government periodically mumbles about getting rid of their big note, on the basis that the only reason anybody would have one is to do something illegal with it. You certainly rarely see one in everyday use and US ATMs generally only dispense US$20 notes.

IMG_2185 - US dollars - 270◄  In fact US$100s are very widely used, outside the USA. A few weeks ago in China I was speaking at a tourism conference in Guilin. ‘Bring a receipt for your airfare with you and we’ll refund it,’ the organizer promised and indeed they did. In crisp US$100 notes. A few weeks later I spent some of those US$100s without any difficulty, not in San Francisco or New Orleans where they might be treated with some suspicion, but in Khartoum in Sudan where spending a ‘Benjamin’ is no problem at all.

Scanning a Benjamin might not be so easy. Some computer software (including on my Microsoft Surface laptop) simply will not produce a colour scan of a hundred. Black & white is fine and you can photograph them, but a scan? No way. Although curiously Maureen’s Macbook was quite happy to do the job.



Sweden is currently leading the world in the push to dump cash and deal only in digital currency. Here in Melbourne, Australia I’ve got a local butcher shop which has totally dumped our dollars. If you want a half kilo of Aussie steak you’ve got to pay for it with a card. But does getting rid of hard cash in favour of digital currency really cut the corruption?

IMG_1468 - Mossak-Fonseca office - 20cm - 540▲ Here I am outside the Mossack Fonseca office in Panama City just after the Panama Papers story broke earlier this year. I don’t think any of the businesses implicated in the scandal were doing bad stuff with hard currency. As Don Henley, ex-Eagle rock star, put it ‘’A man with a briefcase can steal millions more than any man with a gun.’

IMG_2185 - US dollars - 270

Money – cash, digital, demonetized, photographed

21 December 2016 | Living

I blogged recently about the 10,000 worthless Indian rupees I’d found myself stuck with after a recent visit to India. After the Indian government demonetized their 1000 and 500 rupee notes – their two biggest banknotes, worth US$14.60 and US$7.30, respectively...

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Gliders in Ghizo

Unpresidented, Unprecedented, Stolen Underwater Gliders

19 December 2016 | Living

The press has been full of stories about the US Navy research ‘underwater glider’ (although it was often referred to as an ‘underwater drone’) which the Chinese snatched out of the water and refused – for awhile at least – to hand back. Donald Trump announced it was a...

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IMG_1644 - king,  Apedemak Temple at Musawarat - 540

Sudan – pryamids, desert & not many visitors

5 December 2016 | Places

I’ve been rather slow in posting on my travels this year, I’ll try and catch up before the end of 2016, starting with a recent week in Sudan. I started and finished in Khartoum, the capital city, and travelled around North Sudan in between. ▲ Getting a visa can be ...

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IMG_2132 - useless Indian rupees - 540

Useless Indian Money – Voodoo Economics

4 December 2016 | Living

There’s 10,000 useless Indian rupees, about US$150 in real money. ▼ I wouldn’t normally have any Indian currency around. Euros or US dollars fine, I’m back in both regions regularly and anyway they can be used in lots of places other than the euro zone or the U...

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IMG_1375 - Supermoon, Bay Bridge - 540jpg

The US Election … too soon to tell?

18 November 2016 | Living

I flew from London to San Francisco on Tuesday 8 November, so I’d be there for the US election. I’ll always be disappointed that I wasn’t in Berlin when the wall came down (9 November 1989) and perhaps this would be another of those world changing events and it would ...

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Berlin - leaping the wall

Be There or Be Square

31 October 2016 | Culture

I wish I’d been in Berlin on 9 November 1989 to see the wall come down. I finally got there on 21 October 1991, nearly two years later, and totally because a collection of my German Berlin friends had all insisted I had to see Berlin before it was changed forever. At ...

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IMG_0612 - Tata Nano in Ratnagiri - 540

Cars in India, Cars in Hong Kong – Nanos & Tesla

15 October 2016 | Transport

▲ Tata Nano in Ratnagiri The Tata Nano launched in India in 2008 with the aim of being the world’s most affordable car. The tiny two cylinder 624 cc vehicle was going to get people off their family motorcycles (typically carrying husband, wife and several children)...

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IMG_0349 - Tungabhadra coracles 540

Hampi in India – take 2

9 October 2016 | Places

This is my second Hampi report, following the earlier account of a visit to the Chandramauleshwara Temple. I only had two days in Hampi, there’s so much to see another day or two would have worked very well. ▲ In the Royal Enclosure the imposing Mahnavami Dibba pla...

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IMG_0211 - Hazararama Temple 270

Hampi in India – take 1

7 October 2016 | Places

I’ve reported on my visit to Global Heritage Fund’s Chandramauleshwara Temple at Hampi and how pleased I was to finally get to this wonderful temple-studded abandoned city in southern India. So here’s a random selection of images from my recent visit. I’ll post some m...

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Discontent & its Civilisations

Discontent & its Civilizations

5 October 2016 | Media

I seriously liked Mohsin Hamid’s novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and although I’ve not read his other two novels – The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke – I have just read Discontent & Its Civilizations, a collection of ‘Dispatches from Lahore, N...

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