PUC-RJ: According to Monika Halan, editor of the Delhi-based financial newspaper Mint, in India,

Does a cashless society benefit everyone?

As paper money disappears, in countries from
Sweden to India, some might get left behind.
BBC World Service
27 April 2018

“I think if cash disappears all over, it will be a very big problem… I’m afraid it is going too fast… so it’s a big concern if you have that feeling that society is not for you”, says Maijlis Jonsson, a 73-year-old living in the centre of Sweden’s capital Stockholm.

Sweden has been steadily moving towards a completely cashless society for a number of years. Cash is now used in less than one in five of all cash transactions in stores – half the number as five years ago. The country has banned notes and coins on buses, and many tourist attractions take plasticonly transactions. The law says shops can refuse toaccept cash. So many stores now have signs reading, “no cash, please.” Life can be hard for those unwilling or unable to embrace the changes.

Maijlis Jonsson is one such person. She tries to pay for a cup of coffee at a café but the cashier refuses. “He didn’t want to have my money so I have to pay by card,” she says, adding that, in any case, ATMs* are becoming harder and harder to come by in Stockholm. Niklas Arvidsson, professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Sweden’s leading expert on the payment system, acknowledges that certain demographics are in danger of being left behind, like the elderly.

Is Sweden benefitting from all this? According to Arvidsson, it is. “Electronic transactions are quicker and cost less in general and make the payment system more efficient.” He also points out that “it is a little bit more difficult in general for the people to get away with tax fraud.” However, as with all moves towards uncharted territory, who holds the power? Will we be handing it over to a small number of private companies who hold the keys to how these payment systems work?

“It is a risk”, admits Arvidsson. “We might end up in a situation where a few commercial banks have a lot of power. The counterforce against that is the growth of tech companies, developing services that can compete with banks, and hopefully will get still a very competitive market where we don’t see oligopolistic profit – and then too much power resting in the hands of a few actors.” Sweden is not the only country eyeing up a cashless future.

India is looking to step away from traditional cash transactions. However, some say it took an extreme, perhaps brutal step at forcing people to embrace digital transactions. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi created dozens of cashless townships where notes and coins are discouraged. But India is a vast country and with an estimated 270 million Indians below the poverty line. Is a cashless future actually desirable even if it is possible?

Monika Halan, editor of the Delhi-based financial newspaper Mint, says the Indian government is motivated by a variety of factors. She says it is partly to do with cracking down on money earned on the black market, as well as the financing of terror. But it is also to do with financial inclusion and financialisation of the economy. “There are reasons why people would not enter a bank branch,” she explains. “They were afraid of being mocked, their notes were dirty. They did not have the confidence that they would get treated well by the bank managers.”

She also points to another issue: banks in rural areas do not have adequate staff or resources. “If you look at the way people save in the poorer parts of the country or even in the urban informal sector, it’s really a lot of informal funds where they collect money themselves. And a lot of people lose that money.” People want their money to be safe, she argues, so of course people want to put their money into banks rather than have cash at home. “You need to get banking to the poor people, in the manner that they want it – not in the manner that is supplied.”

Halan also describes how digital banking via cheap mobile devices has levelled the playing field for less well-off service providers. As soon as the price of mobile phones fell, street vendors, carpenters, sweepers – India’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit embodied – bought them in order to increase their business. Thanks to these tools, they are now able to do what the rich and elite do.

Of course, with an increase in digital transactions, the question of data security comes into play. As we freefall through an increasingly virtual world – and payments over the cloud instead of payments with paper – who has access to our information? For Monika Halan, it is a global problem with no easy solution. “I think those are the issues the entire world right now is grappling with post-Facebook,” she says. “Government and regulators have to act really fast to plug the data breaches which are happening all across the world, and even in India.”

But she remains largely positive about these policies towards demonetisation. “I really do believe that once the technology genie is out of the bottle, how do you put it back?”
Available at: <http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20180427-does-a-
-cashless-society-benefi t-everyone>. Retrieved on: 3 May 2018.
* Automated teller machines

PUC-RJ: According to Monika Halan, editor of the Delhi-based financial newspaper Mint, in India,

(A) bank managers have been concerned with poverty alleviation.

(B) informal funds have played a key role in improving the lives of the poor.

(C) poor rural people have access to a wide variety of financial services offered by banks.

(D) accessible mobile phones have made it possible for service providers to conduct electronic transactions to boost their activities.

(E) the government has solved the problem of cyber theft and hacking by implementing regulations on payments over the cloud.

PUC-RJ: In the fragment “Is a cashless future actually desirable even if it is possible?” (lines 52-53), “actually” can be replaced, with no change in meaning, by

Para poder responder esta questão, o candidato precisa entender a ideia ressaltada por Monica Halan de que os celulares têm tido um papel decisivo na vida dos prestadores de serviço menos privilegiados financeiramente na India, na medida em que estes empreendedores (vendedores ambulantes, marceneiros, garis) têm podido acessar seus bancos digitalmente via celular e, assim, têm podido ampliar seus negócios. Portanto, o gabarito é a letra (D), que afirma que “telefones celulares acessíveis possibilitaram que os provedores de serviços realizassem transações eletrônicas para impulsionar suas atividades”. Tal afirmativa encontra respaldo no parágrafo 9 (linhas 76-83).

As demais opções estão incorretas, visto que Monica Halan não diz que na India

• os gerentes dos bancos têm se preocupado com a diminuição da pobreza, como em (A);

• fundos informais têm tido um papel fundamental na melhoria de vida dos mais pobres, como em (B);

• os habitantes das áreas rurais têm amplo acesso aos serviços financeiros oferecidos pelos bancos, como em (C);

• o governo resolveu o problema dos roubos cibernéticos e da pirataria virtual ao implementar regras nos pagamentos feitos na nuvem, como em (E).

(D) accessible mobile phones have made it possible for service providers to conduct electronic transactions to boost their activities.

- PUC-RJ: The boldfaced expression introduces an idea of IMPLICATION in

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