Category Archives: International Monetary Fund

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IMF Online Pollsters Call Crypto Most Popular Payment by 2024

IMF Online Pollsters Call Crypto Most Popular Payment by 2024

A poll running on the IMF website asking the question asking “How do you think you will be paying for lunch in 5 years?” now has almost 26,000 responses.

The response is clear, hedging towards crypto with 56% of respondents going for the flagship crypto with only 9% and 7% respectively suggesting payments in 2024 will be made with cash and bankcard.

Of course, IMF’s poll is limited to lunch, but clearly could well be extended to online and in-store purchases. However, eating out on crypto is not as difficult as one might think, which is probably reflected by the respondents’ views.

Asia is ahead of the game with Bithumb, South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency-to-fiat exchange and the world’s 6th largest digital currency, who installed cryptocurrency-accepting kiosks across the country, at restaurants, cafes, stores, and malls in 2018.

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz has warned that cryptocurrencies need to be adopted by retailers in order to join reserve currencies around the world. The Bakkt project has for the latter part of 2018 been touted as the platform to finally make way for mainstream institutional investors to get into the cryptocurrency game and could see the beginning of Starbucks crypto coffee and bagels.

Currently, CoinMap identifies over 14,600 establishments that accept Bitcoin across the world, but these are not simply eateries such as restaurants and cafés. Scandinavia may be the place to dine on Bitcoin though. Denmark is keen and now registers 1500 restaurants which will happily take clients BTC for a tasty meal. Further south in Holland, Arnhem, once called the “world’s most Bitcoin-friendly city”, is now seeing BTC less used for such payments.


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IMF Big Guns Uphold Pro-Blockchain Views, Commit Long-Term Research

Key figures at International Monetary Fund (IMF) have recently espoused pro-blockchain views with the IMF Managing Director believing in the public benefits of cryptocurrencies, and the Deputy Counsel discussing blockchain technology as part of ongoing future policy research.

Risk and reward

Earlier on in November, the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) published a bulletin in which IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde authored an article titled ‘A Regulatory Approach to Fintech: Guarding Against Emerging Risks Without Stifling Innovation’. Highlighting the challenges facing cryptocurrencies, what opportunities they offer, as well as their downsides, she acknowledges the polarizing camps in which many position themselves with regards to the crypto-industry.

According to Lagarde, there are crypto-evangelicals who see the tech innovation as a “similar breakthrough” to the invention of the telephone, and its initial dismissal by the dominant market forces. She also acknowledges the opposing side who believe cryptocurrencies to be “a fad or a fraud”, and says that the new technology should not be dismissed “so lightly”.

Echoing the balanced statements she had made earlier this year, she continues to argue that in the wake of these new technologies, regulators will be challenged to protect consumers and investors from fraud, tackle tax evasion as well as money laundering and terrorism financing, while maintaining the “integrity and stability on the financial system”. But this must also be done carefully as not to stifle innovations that will benefit the public.

Conclusively, she wrote: “Above all, we must keep an open mind about crypto-assets and fintech, not only because of the risks they pose but also because of their potential to improve our lives. When in doubt, think of Bell and his telephone.”

“Anchored” by Blockchain

At the Singapore Fintech Festival on 12 November, IMF General Counsel Ross Leckow said during a discussion with Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse: “The IMF is devoting a lot of attention to fintech and blockchain.”

Giving focus to the demand for absolute regulatory certainty, Leckow described the global blockchain regulatory discussions as “early stage”, adding “a lot more work needs to be done”.

Leckow’s views fall in line with those of his colleague Lagarde; when questioned by Garlinghouse on the IMF’s views of digital assets, Leckow said:

“The IMF takes a balanced view. Each country has to decide for themselves what type of regulatory framework is best. But generally speaking, they should be cognizant of risk but also the potential to make the global system more efficient, more inclusive with this new technology.”

Marshall Islands

These open-minded statements may run somewhat in contrary to an ongoing issue regarding the Marshall Islands and their intentions to launch a national cryptocurrency.

It was reported on 12 September that the IMF had published a 58-page report warning against the plan to adopt a digital currency named Sovereign, citing international banking relations and the potential disruption to foreign aid as areas of concern.


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IMF Puts Pressure on Marshall Islands Plan for National Crypto

The Marshall Islands plans for a national cryptocurrency has encountered a setback after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned against the idea.

In a 58-page report, the IMF suggests that banks will refuse to work with the island’s businesses should the government go ahead with its plans for adopting the Sovereign (SOV).

Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to US-based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service.

Although the new cryptocurrency, the Sovereign (SOV), was set to displace the US dollar as the official currency, it was likely that the country’s 53,066 population would continue to use the dollar until banks and credit companies put in place a framework for the currency’s use. The new report by the IMF could put the future plan in jeopardy; the IMF has used provocative language urging the island republic to cease its activities, with this warning:

“The potential benefits from [digital currency] revenue gains appear considerably smaller than the potential costs arising from economic, reputational, AML/CFT, and governance risks. In the absence of adequate measures to mitigate them, the authorities should seriously reconsider the issuance of the digital currency as legal tender.”

There is a critical view held by economists in some countries whose governments may be considering similar moves to adopt a national cryptocurrency, that a mass decentralization of financial power may result in the diminishing of IMF’s authority. A warning by IMF’s deputy director Dong He earlier this year clearly suggests that the organization may be secretly worried at the movement towards global digital currency adoption.

He argued that “crypto assets may one day reduce demand for central bank money”, suggesting central banks should “forestall the competitive pressure crypto assets may exert on fiat currencies”.

David Gerard, author of ‘Attack of the 50-foot Blockchain’, asserts that the IMF is not so heavy-handed as they might appear, suggesting that, “The IMF is not strong-arming the Marshalls, what they’re doing is describing what will obviously happen if they proceed.”

As yet there has been no comment from the Marshall Islands authorities over the IMF suggestion they should “seriously consider” their great crypto-leap forward. Other countries considering similar plans to integrate cryptocurrency into their banking systems at this level will be interested to see how this situation develops in the weeks to come.


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Blockchain Eases the Way in World of Islamic Finance

Islamic banking which carries with it higher administrative costs than conventional banking could be benefited with the implementation of blockchain technology.

The two basic principles behind Islamic banking are the sharing of profit and loss and, significantly, the prohibition of the collection and payment of interest.

Blockchain-based banking is considered the next frontier in banking that will usher in a new era of decentralization and disrupt the centralized banking system. Islamic banking is a USD 3 trillion industry worldwide particularly popular in North African, South Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Its principles involve zero interest rates and focus on more control of one’s finances than the conventional banking system.

Financial Institutions such as Hada DBank, a promising new startup, will help increase transparency and bring back control to the average Islamic Bank user. For this purpose, Hada DBank is involved in various corporate partnerships that are cementing the bank’s status as the premier blockchain Islamic bank.

However, fees are an issue in traditional Islamic banking, the main reason being that the system requires higher transactional costs which cover some legal and administrative processes not required in conventional banking.

Blockchain banking in automating some of these processes due to encoding terms and including them in its smart contract system can alleviate some of the associated legal and administrative processes, reducing both cost and the risk of fraud.

In Islamic banking, all financial transactions must comply with Sharia Law, where debt cannot be created unless backed with underlying assets. Mining is acceptable as there is no aspect of either debt or lending involved in the process.  According to Islamic law, items falling under the ribawi category (such as gold or silver) must be exchanged in equal measure and with immediate transfer of possession, otherwise, transactions may involve riba or usury, a major prohibition in Islam.

UAE-based startup Adab Solutions has launched the world’s first cryptocurrency exchange that operates with full Sharia law compliance. The exchange will be overseen by an in-house Sharia Advisory Board (SAB) comprised of independent experts that will ensure the operations unfailingly remain within the jurisdiction of Islamic law.

As the fastest growing religion in the world, with Muslims now representing 23% of the world’s population, Bitcoin has become an important issue for financial authorities. Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held its first formal discussion about Islamic banking needs in the Muslim community for the first time.


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