THE CASH ECONOMY IN ASIA – why a 100% digital payments economy will not work

Story by Arthur Kokontis – Director and founder of Sitnok Global –

This is will be a brief outline of an observation of the cash economy in ASIA, it’s implications for the community and lower social classes, particularly HONG KONG and China.

My recent visit to Hong Kong this last 7 days presented some real life social and economic truths and problems. As a banking and finance professional, I certainly have used my logic to come to some conclusions about the alarming issues I discovered in the push towards a digital economy world-wide under the guise of globalization  and connectivity.

This requires me to interject on this story and point out the globalisation push which is being directed via mobile internet of things [IOT] devices and  – that after 3 migration check points and countless que’s at airports followed by countless intervals of stop overs and flying hours and miles, to only end up with jet lag,  a medical condition of flying at 11km altitude and -46 degrees temperatures – which requires 4 days of rest to ensure recovery – I don’t see how the world is connected or ever will be – despite serving some other purpose over the world’s population.

The cost of travelling certainly  does not allow us to be connected. The difference in strong customs, values and cultures, social behaviour so unique in every region and developed over centuries, is certainly a blessing and offering from the god’s.




Looking at the cash economy in Asia and observing its competition with digital payment systems and credit card facilities – I derived some real and alarming facts – as I continue to assess the impact on all social classes of this information and digital monetary age.

The one thing I have observed traveling in Asia where the majority of the worlds population resides – is they ‘prefer’ to do business with cash.

So one would need to buy whatever local currency in hard cash to use transport all hours of the day consume food or purchase vital needs.

Yes in major cities there are credit facilities used by retailers and larger business, but no small business [your local grocer, restaurant does not accept credit card, and I was presented with the problem that buses, taxi, do not use credit cards, they only accept cash.

So the cash economy for the lower social classes is the only economy, the digital economy is useless, as trade for produce and labor is paid by cash.




I cannot imagine the disastrous outcome for these social classes should they be forced to use a digital payment system, and cash was removed from circulation – I am now certain this would cause hunger, hardship and death equivalent to any war time.



We come prepared with credit card facilities, payment facilities and assume the world has become a digital monetary economy – THIS IS NOT TRUE!

I found myself with the realisation that if I did not have CASH with me in ASIA and now in EUROPE, the vital necessities may not be consumed, – TRANSPORT, FOOD and even MEDICAL assistance.




People today have two medium of exchange currencies, one being traditional paper printed cash and today’s digital currencies and payment systems.

People provide their labor in return for wealth in the form of a credit transfer to them either by paper cash dollars or a credit to their electronic bank account. This provides them with two money options for managing their daily living transactions.

We all know electronic cards fail electronically when used on vendors devices,  deteriorate and are damaged from wear and tear, aging of the material or even the elements. I am certain we have all had the alarming experience when you walk in an consume a good or service and your card fails to transmit payment. Your instant reaction would be to look for cash in your pocket – so we all would have a very subconscious view that we are all financially vulnerable with our vital money supply.

Cash would always bring us peace of mind – because it is a physical and storeable material – that does not depend on an electronic device to be transferred.



This now leads me to the center of my concern – that if economies money supply were completely digitized – then someone in control of the payment device – our government and financial institutions, local and now non sovereign  institutions,  could determine and control our vital supply of money.

Small business are not always offered visa and merchant payment facilities, this being a perfect recent example how an entity [ the small business ] loses its viability to the electronic and digital money supply, forcing a large percentage of them to failure and ultimately  financial catastrophe. I can only imagine the hardship that results from such forced failure, from an innocent attempt to provide for yourself and your immediate family you enter an investment decision to start a small business, sometimes with a mortgage attached to this venture.

People in this scenario lose complete control of their wealth and money supply and can be controlled and governed like robots by governments – who are supposed to be serving the people in any democracy. You effectively give complete control of your wealth to your government. This outcome to me is obviously to perilous and not democratically correct if we would consider the political and legal system in place for the people.

This is certainly a wake up call so to speak – for a person as me part of the banking and finance community – my observations identified the real world we live in and the vulnerability of the lower social classes – who I sincerely always have in mind.

Follow Arthur Kokontis’s Twitter feed @sitnokglobal















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