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.’