The Russians are taking a page from the Europeans book (and not a positive one for libertarians). Given the substantial criminal activity and illegal entrepreneurship in Russia – the grey and black economies account for 50–65 percent of GDP and estimates that about $50 billion was taken out of Russia illegally in 2012 alone – the great and glorious leaders have decided to impose restrictions on cash transactions. As Russia Beyond The Headlines reports, Russia may ban cash payments for purchases of more than 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) starting in 2015 – starting with a higher ($19,500) restriction in 2014. They will also enforce mandatory cash-free salary payments (cash compensation accounts for 15% of GDP currently) in an effort to both bring some of the population’s ‘grey’ income out of the shadow; and increase the volume of cash reserves in the banks. It would appear that wherever we look now, leadership are realizing that the limits of fiscal and monetary policy have been reached and now changing rules, limiting freedom, and outright confiscation are the only way to maintain a status quo. Ironic really, when the enforcement of said rules may just be the catalyst for the end of the status quo as the middle class suffers.
Russia may ban cash payments for purchases of more than 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) starting in 2015. The move is expected to boost banks’ cash reserves and put a damper on Russia’s shadow economy. However, the middle class will most likely end up having to pay the price for the scheme.
Moscow is looking to kill two birds with one stone: Firstly, it wants to bring some of the population’s “grey” income out of the shadow; secondly, it wants to increase the volume of cash reserves in the banks. The government’s bill will introduce the new rule to the State Duma. The document was prepared by the Ministry of Finance and approved by the government.
The restrictions on cash transactions will develop in two phases. In 2014, a ban on cash payments for purchases worth more than 600,000 rubles (about $19,500) will be introduced; the limit will then be halved to 300,000 rubles in 2015. Furthermore, the document introduces mandatory, cash-free, salary payments.
Even now, cash withdrawals on payday account for around 85 percent of all ATM transactions. Moreover, in 2005–2011, cash flows more than quadrupled. According to Bank of Russia estimates, more than 90 percent of all commodity purchases in Russia are paid for in cash.
The government is now trying to bring the shadow economy into the light and increase money flows into the treasury, according to Investcafe analyst Yekaterina Kondrashova. In her words, as soon as the new rules come into effect, those using unofficial wage payment schemes will encounter certain difficulties, although there could be some ways to circumvent the law.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Anticorruption Committee estimate the market for money laundering and cash conversions at somewhere between 3.5 and 7 trillion rubles ($113–230 billion) — about 60 percent of the Russian federal budget.
Rosstat reports that the volume of the shadow economy (“grey” money from tax evasion, compensations paid as “cash in envelopes” and violations of currency and foreign trade regulations) is at least 15 percent of the GDP, according to Ricom-Trust senior analyst Vladislav Zhukovsky.
Given the substantial criminal activity and illegal entrepreneurship, the grey and black economies account for 50–65 percent of GDP. Even former Central Bank Chief Sergey Ignatyev had to admit that about $50 billion was taken out of Russia illegally in 2012 alone.
There is another side to the move toward plastic, however. Cash-free payments will result in higher prices for some goods and services. The middle class will suffer the most, because the “risk group” includes property and automobile transactions. The luxury segment will also be affected, including customized tours.