Bloomberg Businessweek has an interesting article about the downsides of cash payments in the world of non government organizations:
Billionaires are known for not keeping a lot of spending green in their wallets. But that’s not why Bill Gates hates cash. He hates it because of its effect on people at the opposite end of the wealth spectrum—the world’s poor and unbanked. The Better Than Cash Alliance, which was founded last September and is partially financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hosted a breakfast today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Speakers from the Philippines, Colombia, and the U.S., among other countries, made the case for why electronic transactions are better than cash payments.
Top five reasons, according to the alliance:
Transparency: Less corruption and theft when payments can be easily tracked. In Afghanistan, U.S. aid agencies use it so workers aren’t so vulnerable to robbery.
Security: The money gets where it’s supposed to go.
Financial inclusion: Electronic payment is a way for unbanked people to establish a record of on-time payment of their bills. This can be an “on-ramp” for them to get other services, such as loans, speakers said.
Cost savings: Moving physical cash around is costlier than zipping electrons. Many poor people, however, still find it cheaper to use cash, because some cashless networks charge high fees.
Access to new markets: This benefit is mainly for providers of financial services.
We learned the downsides of cash payments in Iraq as well. I only wish our DOD had the same expectations of financial accountability these NGOs have.