If ever there was a mistake that plays into the hands of lunatic government officials with dictatorial aspirations or obsessive digital currency advocates with a dubious agenda, it’s the Bank of England’s misplacing of £50 billion worth of physical bank notes
Ten years ago, it was the bow tie-wearing mavericks and shysters that spent every minute of every day foaming at the mouth and uttering the non-existent word ‘crypto’ every two seconds as they had reached such a crisis point in their until then meaningless lives that they were suddenly the self-appointed advocates of an equally non-existent currency.
Since then, the financial world has witnessed fraud after fraud, collapse after collapse, and state law enforcement agencies hot on the tails of these individuals whose absurd ramblings often included far-fetched visions relating to how digital currency was going to take over the world, and that ‘banksters’ (yes, another fabricated word) would be history, have now put many of them where they rightly belong – in jail.
Some FX firms even attempted to offer CFDs on these airware derivatives, only to catch a very serious cold very quickly.
Here we are, ten years later, and exactly as was clearly obvious, the banks are still where they’ve always been and there is no sign of this ridiculous people-powered distributed currency revolution, because it had no basis and still doesn’t.
Rather oddly, however, governments themselves are now making a U-turn and beginning to discuss the implementation of digital versions of their own sovereign currency. Of course, this is not as dangerous from an investment perspective, as they will be central bank issued tender, in the same currency as the physical bank notes, but it has similar connotations in regard to dictatorial methods of running a country and controlling the masses.
China, the most illiberal large economy in the world, is leading the way with this, and unfortunately, there are talks of the European Union following suit. This should be widely disapproved of, however this week’s blunder by the Bank of England serves to create leverage for the banks to go down that treacherous route.
The Bank of England is coming under pressure from MPs to discover the whereabouts of £50 billion in missing banknotes at a time when cash supply is dwindling on the high street.
A report from the Public Accounts Committee, says oversight of the production and distribution of notes and coins is “unclear” and “fragmented” across responsible authorities, who have been “behind the curve” in ensuring access to cash for consumers and businesses.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the public spending oversight body, says: “Our run up to Christmas and Christmas shopping is obviously very different this year, but it highlights how increasingly difficult it has become to, for example, choose to support a small local business by paying it in cash – generally the cheapest form of payment to accept.
“In many areas where you can use cash you’d be hard pressed to find it, at least without paying an ATM fee that may be a substantial percentage of a small withdrawal – yet making frequent, small withdrawals can be a key budgeting tool for those on low incomes, and least able to afford those fees.”
Responsibilities are spread across HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Payment Systems Regulator and the Bank of England but no one body is in overall charge of making sure that people and businesses have access to cash, the Committee points out.
Conversely, demand for sterling notes has steadily increased, but the Bank of England does not “appear to have a convincing reason for why the demand for notes keeps increasing” or any real understanding of where approximately £50 billion of issued sterling notes are, or being used for.”
The Bank estimates that 20%-24% of issued notes are used or held for cash transactions. This leaves about £50 billion worth of issued bank notes that may be being used overseas for transactions or savings, or held in the UK as unreported household savings or for use in the shadow economy.
Hillier said “£50 billion of sterling notes – or about three quarters of this precious and dwindling supply – is stashed somewhere but the Bank of England doesn’t know where, who by or what for – and doesn’t seem very curious. It needs to be more concerned about where the missing £50 billion is. Depending where it is and what it’s being used for, that amount of money could have material implications for public policy and the public purse. The Bank needs to get a better handle on the national currency it controls.”
With the British Pound as the strongest currency in the world for many decades, and its potential status as the most important reserve currency should it take over from the US Dollar, playing into the hands of megalomaniacs like lockdown-obsessed, freedom-curtailing tinpot dictator Boris Johnson is not a mistake to be making.