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Hong Kong economy

Take note of move to cashless payments

While there is great interest in last week’s announcement of new banknotes, the government should ensure Hong Kong keeps technologically in step with the nation and rest of the world

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 3:14am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 3:14am

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has three basic rules for the banknotes that are issued in our city. It expects that they should be pleasing to look at, say something about the community they circulate in and for the sake of public confidence, be difficult to counterfeit.

Whether the new notes announced last week and to be released in batches over the next two years check all boxes is a matter of opinion; in particular, debate rages over a number of the designs.

But those with an eye on technological advances worry less about the images than wondering why a government that says it is committed to creating a smart city is still producing paper money.

Without doubt, Hong Kong has been slow compared to the mainland and a handful of countries when it comes to mobile phone payments.

But it is wrong to contend that it has been reluctant to adopt cashless systems, as evidenced by 99 per cent of people between the ages of 16 and 65 using Octopus tap-and-pay cards and the prevalence of credit cards, with adults each holding an average of more than three.

On the mainland, the difficulty in getting a credit card and the prevalence of forged notes has driven people to embrace smartphone e-payments.

Hongkongers have a wide choice of payment methods, worry more about the security and privacy involved in transactions and older citizens in particular prefer cash.

New Hong Kong banknotes to thwart counterfeiters … and promote Cantonese culture

The new banknotes have therefore sparked great interest. There is much to talk about given that notes for five denominations are issued by three commercial banks, meaning 15 designs will be released.

For the first time, all banks have had to use the same thematic subjects, being, Hong Kong as an international financial centre for the HK$1,000 note, the Unesco-listed Geopark (HK$500), Cantonese opera (HK$100), butterflies (HK$50) and dim sum (HK$20).

But amid the discussion about appropriateness, colour and imagery, the wider issue of moving to cashless payments should not be forgotten.

Smartphone apps and cards are more convenient, speed up transactions, negate the need to produce paper money and coins and put an end to counterfeiting.

Although not as eye-catching as banknotes, they ensure we keep technologically in step with the nation and rest of the world.