posted on 13 December 2015
by Ellen Brown, Web of Debt
Global developments in finance and geopolitics are prompting a rethinking of the structure of banking and of the nature of money itself.
Among other interesting news items:
Developments in Russia
In a November 2015 article titled "Russia Debates Unorthodox Orthodox Financial Alternative," William Engdahl writes:
Engdahl notes that the financial sanctions launched by the US Treasury in 2014 have forced a critical rethinking among Russian intellectuals and officials. Like China, Russia has developed an internal Russian version of SWIFT Interbank payments; and it is now considering a plan to restructure Russia's banking system. Engdahl writes:
On September 15, 2013, Sergei Glazyev, one of Vladimir Putin's economic advisers, presented a a series of economic proposals to the Presidential Russian Security Council that also suggest radical change is on the horizon. The plan is aimed at reducing vulnerability to western sanctions and achieving long-term growth and economic sovereignty.
Particularly interesting is a proposal to provide targeted lending for businesses and industries by providing them with low-interest loans at 1-4 percent, financed through the central bank with quantitative easing (digital money creation). The proposal is to issue 20 trillion rubles for this purpose over a five year period. Using quantitative easing for economic development mirrors the proposal of UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn for "quantitative easing for people."
William Engdahl concludes that Russia is in "a fascinating process of rethinking every aspect of her national economic survival because of the reality of the western attacks," one that "could produce a very healthy transformation away from the deadly defects" of the current banking model.
Iceland's Radical Money Plan
Iceland, too, is looking at a radical transformation of its money system, after suffering the crushing boom/bust cycle of the private banking model that bankrupted its largest banks in 2008. According to a March 2015 article in the UK Telegraph:
Under this "Sovereign Money" proposal, the country's central bank would become the only creator of money. Banks would continue to manage accounts and payments and would serve as intermediaries between savers and lenders. The proposal is a variant of the Chicago Plan promoted by Kumhof and Benes of the IMF and the Positive Money group in the UK.
Public Banking Initiatives in Iceland, Ireland and the UK
A major concern with stripping private banks of the power to create money as deposits when they make loans is that it will seriously reduce the availability of credit in an already sluggish economy. One solution is to make the banks, or some of them, public institutions. They would still be creating money when they made loans, but it would be as agents of the government; and the profits would be available for public use, on the model of the US Bank of North Dakota and the German Sparkassen (public savings banks).
In Ireland, three political parties - Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Renua Ireland (a new party) - are now supporting initiatives for a network of local publicly-owned banks on the Sparkassen model. In the UK, the New Economy Foundation (NEF) is proposing that the failed Royal Bank of Scotland be transformed into a network of public interest banks on that model. And in Iceland, public banking is part of the platform of a new political party called the Dawn Party.
Ecuador's Dinero Electronico: A National Digital Currency
So far, these banking overhauls are just proposals; but in Ecuador, radical transformation of the banking system is under way.
Ever since 2000, when Ecuador agreed to use the US dollar as its official legal tender, it has had to ship boatloads of paper dollars into the country just to conduct trade. In order to "seek efficiency in payment systems [and] to promote and contribute to the economic stability of the country," the government of President Rafael Correa has therefore established the world's first national digitally-issued currency.
Unlike Bitcoin and similar private crypto-currencies (which have been outlawed in the country), Ecuador's dinero electronico is operated and backed by the government. The Ecuadorian digital currency is less like Bitcoin than like M-Pesa, a private mobile phone-based money transfer service started by Vodafone, which has generated a "mobile money" revolution in Kenya.
Western central banks issue digital currency for the use of commercial banks in their reserve accounts, but it is not available to the public. In Ecuador, any qualifying person can have an account at the central bank; and opening one is as easy as walking into a participating financial institution and exchanging paper money for electronic money stored on their smartphones.
Ecuador's banks and other financial institutions were ordered in May 2015 to adopt the digital payment system within the next year, making them "macro-agents" of the Electric Currency System.
That means there is no fear of the bank going bankrupt or of bank runs or bail-ins. Nor can the digital currency be devalued by speculative short selling. The government has declared that these are digital US dollars trading at 1 to 1 - take it or leave it - and the people are taking it. According to an October 2015 article titled "Ecuador's Digital Currency Is Winning Hearts!", the currency is actually taking the country by storm; and other countries in Latin America and Africa are not far behind.
The president of the Ecuadorian Association of Private Banks observes that the digital currency could be used to finance the public debt. However, the government has insisted that this will not be done. According to an economist at Ecuador's central bank:
Banking Moves into the 21st Century
The catastrophic failures of the Western banking system mandate a new vision. These transformations, current and proposed, are constructive steps toward streamlining the banking system, eliminating the risks that have devastated individuals and governments, democratizing money, and promoting sustainable and prosperous economies.
They also raise some provocative questions:
These and related questions will be explored in later articles. Stay tuned.
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