Unless I have missed it, I believe there is something the authorities are not saying about a corona-stained bank note being a terrific vehicle of transmission for Covid-19. I was actually glad when Dalitso Kabambe, the governor of the Reserve Bank almost hinted on it the other day.
It is alright to wash hands before and after entering the bread shop; but how about the bank notes that we happily exchange with the beautiful sales ladies? Just what if a few notes there were stained with Corona? And imagine the acceleration of transmission!
Cash is king, so they say. In this advent of Covid-19 that saying may still be true but perilous. Technologically, cash is not king but plastic money is. You may be contending that plastic money is for the tasteful and well-off. Let me surprise you.
Take a cabbage and tomato seller from Bvumbwe, Kaliyeka or Chibavi. She has a phone; never mind that it is not smart. Occasionally, her son who is in another part of the city sends her money on TNM Mpamba or Airtel Money. She has a decent balance on her soft money account; while she has not been transacting because the funds transfer fees were prohibitively high on either Mpamba or Airtel Money.
Now that the charges have been dropped, she can buy the mpilu and tomato from the farmer by simply transferring money. She can also pay the pick-up driver through the same avenue.
As she goes from house to house, selling her merchandise in Nkolokosa, Area 15 or Katoto, she can instruct her customers to pay her electronically.
After she is done, she is be able to pay for her minibus fare to the uncombed conductor using Airtel Money or TNM Mpamba and eliminate the chances of forgetting to collect her change as she disembarks; you know after a long and hard day.
You will notice from this that this lady has transacted without touching a bank note for the whole day. The good thing is that she has avoided contacting Corona virus through infected bank notes.
Let us do some math; both Airtel and TNM are going to lose K 600 million in three months by not charging transfer fees. If this is going to persist for a year, the two companies are going to let go K 2.4 billion. The Reserve bank budget for replacing bank notes for the year 2020 is K15 billion.
It follows that the Reserve Bank can afford to pay off TNM and Airtel upfront for transfer fees for the whole year to promote digital transactions.
In that way, there will be very little need for bank notes. In that way the budget for printing bank notes can shrink to K 5 billion. That leaves the Reserve Bank with K7.6 billion change. And above all, there will be few Corona virus stained notes around. I am I making sense? I rest my case, my lords.