The latest events regarding initiatives to encourage cashless payments in Serbia have raised the question of whether the authorities in the country have a unified position on whether this form of payment and investment in the accompanying infrastructure should be forced, or whether it is a matter of pressure from interest groups that are more concerned about one’s own earnings rather than the welfare of society?
According to the results of research conducted by NALED, the gray economy in Serbia has fallen from 14.9 to 11.7% of GDP in the past five years. This organization claims that if cashless payments were to increase to the average level in CEE countries, it could reduce the gray economy by 3.4% of GDP value and increase tax revenues by around 700 million euros per year. Therefore, the German GIZ and the companies Visa and Mastercard launched the National Initiative for cashless payments “A better way”, with the support of NALED and the Ministry of Finance.
It is believed that the expected benefits would justify some government incentives in the promotion of the cashless economy. However, it does not go smoothly. According to data from the World Bank, 11% of the population in Serbia do not have a bank account at all, and 16% in the category with the lowest incomes. Less than 50% of citizens from the poorest group have payment cards, which is significantly lower than the same population in the Eurozone countries (90%) and the average in the CEE countries (62%). Only 46% of Serbian citizens use a debit card to pay bills, compared to 81% in the Eurozone and 57% in CEE, while only 27% use a mobile phone compared to the European average of 52% and 43% in CEE countries.
This is still a modest share, concludes the World Bank, which at the same time warns that a sudden transition to cashless payments could endanger some population groups that do not have access to the Internet, do not have enough digital knowledge or are too poor for banking services.