On April 4, 2022, Novinite.com published an article (with no author mentioned) claiming that Bulgaria ranks second in Europe, after Romania, in terms of cash transactions, according to the Global Findex database. It is also stated that 28% of the Bulgarian population does not have a bank account and the number of ATMs is 94 (per 100,000 people). Our team decided to research these claims further.
In the article, published on April 4, 2022 on Novinite.com, it is stated that “63% of Transactions in Bulgaria are made in Cash”. The claim is factual, quantitative and it has a clearly defined subject: the transactions in Bulgaria. It can also be characterized as precise, having the exact percentage of the claim in mind.
While the headline highlights the cash transactions in Bulgaria, the article contains information about other European countries, such as: Romania, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Greece. The time period over which the research took place is not specifically mentioned in the article. The name of the PR firm “M3 Communications Group” appears at the end of the article, no author is mentioned. The claim is based on statistics from Global Findex.
The claim author is the World Bank and its Global Findex database – the biggest global source of information on how adults from different countries manage their finances. Since Global Findex is part of The World Bank, the claim author capacity can be classified as a leading field expert. The claim source is the Global Findex in particular. Our team found these statements in an article from Novinite.com, but then we came across other online media that published the same information in an approximate time period.
Multiple Articles Covering the Subject
“Bulgaria ranks second in Europe in cash payments” is the title of the article published this year by Pariteni.bg on April 1st at 6:14 p.m. (with no author mentioned). The article states that 63% of the payments made in Bulgaria are in cash and that 28% of the population doesn’t have any bank accounts. The digital media clarifies that the claims are based on a statistic from Global Findex, quoted by Euronet.
DarikNews.bg published an article (in Bulgarian) titled “Survey: Bulgaria ranks second in Europe in cash payments” on the 1st of April, 2022 at 1:12 p.m. It is also noted that 28% of Bulgarians do not have a bank account, as stated in the article from Novinite.com. DarikNews wrote that “Bulgaria is second in Europe after Romania in terms of cash payments, according to data from Global Findex, quoted by Euronet” but then pointed out the Bulgarian News Agency as their source.
Pariteni.bg and DarikNews.bg are part of Netinfo’s portfolio and so is Nova.bg – a leader in the Bulgarian news distribution market and considered a reliable source of information in the country, with over 1 872 000 users (for January, 2022) according to Gemius Bulgaria, cited by Netinfo. We checked Nova.bg but there was no article that included these claims.
We proceeded to the Bulgarian News Agency website and discovered something quite interesting. To begin with, they did publish an article titled “Bulgaria Has Europe’s Second-Largest Share of Cash Payments” in which the author, Valentin Evstatiev, writes about cash payments being 63% in Bulgaria and a total of 28% of Bulgarians lacking a bank account. This year, on April 6th, at 9:45 a.m., the article was published online. It’s interesting how DarikNews.bg cites the Bulgarian News Agency even though the DarikNews article was published earlier.
There are more examples and one of them is econ.bg which repeats all three statements (the percentage of the cash payments, the percentage of the population with no bank account and the number of ATMs in Bulgaria) from novinite.com but in Bulgarian. Econ.bg published an article on April, 1st, 2022 at 4:55 p.m. with the headline – “63% of transactions in Bulgaria are made in cash”. It is indicated that the team of econ.bg has worked on the article but there are no specific names mentioned. In the footer of the website we noticed that econ.bg is also a part of the portfolio of NoviniteGroup.com, just like Novinite.com.
Money.bg, TechNews.bg and Novini247.com also write about the topic. These online media outlets repeat all three statements, claimed in the article that our team is fact-checking. Novini247.com (published on the 1st of April, 2022 at 4:02 p.m.) points econ.bg as its source while Money.bg (published on the 1st of April, 2022 at 5:20 p.m.) and TechNews.bg (published on the 1st of April, 2022 at 5:23 p.m.) indicate that their own teams have worked on the article.
The Cited Source Provides No Information About Cash Transactions in Bulgaria
The article claims the data was taken from Global Findex, which is a report that measures global progress toward financial inclusion and collates data obtained from national representative surveys. The database has been published every three years since 2011 but there has not been an official report for 2020, therefore the last information that can be accessed is from 2017.
In September, 2021 the World Bank announced that it would discontinue its flagship “Doing Business” report due to internally reported data irregularities on “Doing Business” 2018 and 2020. Our team could not confirm if the suspension of the Global Findex report is related to that or if the Global Findex database has faced similar issues.
The article claims that the percentage of the population without a bank account is 28% and from the Global Findex database from 2017 we can see that information was true for 2017. In the report Bulgaria is mentioned 4 times but in terms of a gender gap in account ownership, adults receiving public sector wages and details of survey methodology, however there is no information about cash transactions and number of ATMs.
Image 1. A screenshot of the Indicator table – Account ownership, 2017 from the Global Findex report for 2017
According to the Bulgarian National Bank the number of ATMs per 100 000 population in 2021 is 77
While conducting research through the World Bank data, we found the Little Data Book on Financial Inclusion 2018, which is a pocket edition of the Global Findex database published in 2018. The report shows the percentage of the digital payments made with a debit or credit card but there is no information about cash transactions. When trying to find information from The European Central Bank, we found their “Study on the payment attitudes of consumers in the euro area” which unfortunately doesn’t include Bulgaria.
We tried to find official statistics from BNB (Bulgarian National Bank) but all we could find was the number of ATMs. According to the information provided by BNB and NSI (National Statistical Institute), the number of ATMs per 100 000 population for the year 2021 is 77 and for the year 2017 it is 81 which doesn’t match with the information given in the article – “Number of ATMs per 100,000 population: 94”.
In short, according to the Global Findex Database 28% of Bulgarians didn’t have a bank account in 2017. We couldn’t verify if this information is still relevant in 2022, at the time of publication. The Global Findex Database from 2017 contains no information about the cash transactions and number of ATMs in Bulgaria. According to information, provided by the Bulgarian National Bank, the number of ATMs per 100 000 population for the year 2021 is 77 and in 2017: it was 81. The number stated in the article, published by Novinite.com, is 94, that part of the claim is false. The publication time can be tracked down to Euronet, that is mentioned in at least two other articles published in the first week of April, 2022 using the same data. Euronet is represented by the PR firm M3 Communications mentioned in the article. After thorough research, we’ve found the claim that Bulgaria is the second most cash-reliant country in Europe to be uncheckable. At the time of publication of this article there were no recent surveys that could support it.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Aleksandra Ilieva, Veronica Slavova, Desislava Teneva & Lilyana Derekyuvlieva, Sofia University, Bulgaria
Tags: Global Findex, Bulgaria, cash transactions, ATM, bank account
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