Forum: Cash has its place as secure medium of exchange

I echo the call by Forum writer Wong Bheet Huan to plan for attacks on Singapore’s infrastructure (Singapore should make plans for warfare that attacks infrastructure, Nov 9).

Apart from a secure supply of food, energy and water, a functioning society also needs to be able to exchange essential goods and services at all times.

Therefore, the resilience of Singapore’s trade infrastructure is vital to our chances of survival should an infrastructure crisis strike.

To maintain the ability to trade at scale during a crisis, we should consider the role of physical cash as a relatively secure medium of exchange. 

Once issued, cash does not depend on any input or infrastructure for its use and circulation. It may be stored, transferred or exchanged for goods and services without the need for electricity or a telecommunications network.

In contrast, e-payments require an “always-on” network of data centres, point-of-sale systems and end-user devices to function. 

Furthermore, physical cash is not susceptible to hacking, denial-of-service and other forms of distributed cyber attacks which can disrupt or disable e-payment systems.

Preserving the use of cash as a “low-tech” medium of exchange will also reduce our dependence on countries that supply essential components and technologies for e-payment systems.

With cash being increasingly regarded as clunky and unfashionable by modern standards, the authorities should perhaps make an effort to retain its use as part of a broader trade contingency plan.

Peter Heng Teck Wee

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