Swiss gov’t supports cash referendum amid digital payment concerns

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Switzerland’s government will hold a national vote on whether to enshrine the availability of cash in the constitution amid concerns about the rise in digital currency, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

A group called the Swiss Freedom Movement collected over 100,000 signatures in support of a plebiscite to safeguard cash at a higher level — under Swiss democracy, a referendum must be held if more than 100,000 citizens sign.

“We need to change the constitution so we can retain cash as freedom for the next generation,” Richard Koller, president of the Swiss Freedom Movement, said in February.

Neither the Swiss government or the central bank have intentions to abandon cash. The European country holds the most cash per capita according to data from 2021.

Meanwhile, officials are worried that the rise in digital payments will cause a ‘downward spiral’ on cash use. Swiss National Bank vice president Martin Schlegel said in a speech in November 2022 that “cash is a well-functioning system, but it is not to be taken for granted.”

“We do also see risks in a strong shift towards cashless payment methods. Declining cash usage puts economic pressure on the cash infrastructure,” he said.

Read more: UK lobbyists slam gov’t report, deny crypto is like gambling

The Swiss government has therefore responded positively towards this new cash referendum. “The Federal Council recognizes the importance of cash for the economy and society,” it said in a statement. The government “is prepared to raise these concerns from the legal to the constitutional level in order to underline their importance.”

Finance and Justice ministries will draw up a draft referendum by the end of August, the government said — yet it remains unclear when a vote will take place.

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