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Tag Archives | developing countries

Blockchains and societies

Some practical and impractical applications and implications of blockchain.

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Photo Credits: Flickr

Blockchains are useful when you need to maintain an immutable history of transactions in which both parties do not trust each other as well as the intermediary. It is also useful in maintaining the anonymity of the participants in a transaction. Given these characteristics what does it mean for countries and societies at different levels of development and organization?

Close to dysfunctional government

Honduras recently has an incident where the top level bureaucrats went into the system allocated whole swaths of land to themselves. Such incidents do not inspire confidence in the authority which is supposed to safe guard people’s land rights and resolve dispute. A solution using blockchain to maintain land records was proposed to solve this problem.

Fiscally irresponsible government

When Argentina faced run-away inflation in 1989 people lost trust in the value of the currency. A currency such as bitcoin which is based on the blockchain technology can be a recourse for people in such a situation as no country can alter the supply of a digital currency forcefully.

Societies with irresponsible media

News based on photographs and videos taken on mobile phones are increasing becoming common on social media as well as main stream media. Unfortunately, so is their tampering and obfuscation. A system where all media is put on a blockchain before it is shared will ensure that it cannot be edited or deleted later on. Thus there will always be a permanent link to the that piece of information which can be visited in case of confusion or controversy.

Societies with poor banking services

Since trust is in distributed in the network peer-to-peer money transfers can be enabled with the inter-mediation by banks. The commission for mining will still have to be paid but the transaction can be recorded on distributed ledger and no one will be able to contest it.

Societies lacking unique identity documents

Services such as onename or keybase use blockchain technology to authenticate users uniquely. Other features like bio-metric information or attributes like address, birthdate, etc. can also be added on top of this.

Societies with authoritarian governments

The transactions on a blockchain are anonymous and thus difficult to track. They can be used for conducting transactions when the parties involved do not want to reveal themselves. Though the privacy provided is not as strong as it seems and there have been many instances when actual people behind the pseudonyms and keys have been identified.

Societies where stock exchanges do not function properly

Since a trusted intermediary is not needed blockchain can be used to trade digital assets or assets which can be uniquely represented in the digital form. This can also be applied to betting markets.

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Reforms in global financial system — Finally

The reforms at International Monetary Fund(IMF) has meant better voting share for India and a voice in global financial system

The IMF’s reform package of quotas and governance became effective on January 26, 2016. As a result of this, India, Russia, China, and Brazil gain entry into the club of 10 largest economies of the world. This review was long pending since December 2010. The delay was attributed to approval by the US Congress which finally gave its nod in December 2015. What do these reforms exactly mean?

First, it is essential to know the origin of IMF. It is an international organisation of 188 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty around the world. To summarise — it is the lender of last resort for the all the countries in the world. It was formed at the end of World War II as part of international financial system led by the US.

Second, what exactly is ‘quota’? Each member country is assigned a quota — which is a value of its share in the IMF financing system. This is proportional to that country’s impact on the world economy. A country’s quota in the IMF determines its voting power, the amount of financial resources it must provide to the IMF, and its access to IMF financing. It then goes without saying that larger a country’s quota, greater will be its say in the governance of IMF. Quotas are based on a weighted average of GDP, openness, economic variability and international reserves. They are expressed in Special Drawing Rights (SDR), an international reserve asset determined by the value of the US dollar, euro, Japanese Yen and pound sterling. The increase in quota has meant enhanced resources for IMF.

The IMF’s capital has nearly doubled from $ 329 billion to $ 659 billion. Much of this has come because of funding from member countries, especially of G-20, contributed after the financial crisis of 2008. As a result, more than 6 percentage points of quota have been transferred from developed to the the emerging market countries. India and China have increased their voting shares by 0.292 and 2.265 percentage points respectively. India’s increase, though marginal has been enough to place it in the top 10 countries. The developed countries have had a decrease in their voting share from 0.2 to 0.5 percentage points. This redistribution has catapulted China from sixth to third position behind US & Japan. Saudi Arabia’s decrease by nearly a percentage point has placed it below India, Russia and Brazil. This reform will also affect the selection process of Executive Directors,i.e., the governance.

Once the reforms are in place, all positions on the board will be determined by election. In the earlier system, member countries with five largest quotas each appointed an Executive Director. This invariably meant a European as the head of IMF. It had been a common refrain among the developing countries that IMF would always be headed by an European and World Bank by an American. The reforms are reflective of the emerging economic order in the world and reinforce IMF’s legitimacy as a global financial institution.

Guru Aiyar is a Research Scholar at Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image: IMF by Javier Ignacio, licensed by creativecommons.org

 

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