Barbados’ Bitt Inc., which designed, ‘DCash’, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s first Digital Currency, issued by a Currency Union Central Bank, is technical lead for Nigeria’s eNaira. Abuja’s digital wallet is a shift away from analogue money. The aim is to accelerate Financial Inclusion. Unlike cryptocurrencies, ‘DCash’, is issued by an official Central Bank, has a fixed value, and is tied to the EC dollar. The ‘DCash’ pilot started in March 2021 in St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis. MasterCard, the Central Bank of The Bahamas, and Island Pay, collaborated to create The Bahamas Sand Dollar Central Bank digital currency.
October 11-17, 2021 is the workspace for four flagship events covering Climate, Trade, Vaccines, and Inclusive Recovery. These events are part of the 2021 annual meetings of The World Bank Group and the IMF. The threads that string these four themes together are: Central Bank Digital Currencies and the function of FinTech in eradicating corruption.
It is not unreasonable that we are unable to surrender the world that the past bequeaths. A world that began with European contact in the late 15th century. After all, the New World did not erase the Old. Columbus’ discovery of America opened a new world, full of new things and new possibilities just as the COVID-19 accelerant is a portal to a new digital world for Smart Island States. A world sprinkled with sensors like confetti, digital shelves in groceries, and the ubiquity of the IoT that impacts all ‘verticals’ and ‘horizontals’ of the digital evolution and organisations.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean remain imperial references. But not one has ever been the site of empire. Emptied of any worldview that would permit the peoples of the region to have faith in even a mindless mission, the individual states, like rafts, go their own way. Our forgetfulness of the encomiendas inaugurated in 1499, convince us that we are unalike the Conquistadores and the Transatlantic traffickers by shrouding the ways in which we are identical in our suffering. There has never been any such thing as a domestic politics.
Filled with no content, the people can only be what they prove themselves to be, which without struggle and skirmish adds up to nothing. The history of the Encomiendas and the Plantations is never over. Its precedent is eternal. Its lessons – are learnings lost. The cognitive capitalism of the new digital world turns on social virtues and wise policies that the virtual world is incapable of producing itself. So where then is the roadmap to El Dorado and inclusive recovery?
With the developed world preoccupied with sustaining their economies, it is incumbent on the region to develop home-grown solutions to safeguard the Caribbean’s existence. Disruptions to global supply chains and whisperings of deglobalization are development trends the Caribbean cannot ignore. Regional integration has been stymied by a dreary progress on key elements of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. Particularly, movement towards an Economic Union and ultimately a Currency Union.
The notion of a single Caribbean currency has ignited vituperative and acrimonious debate. It is nothing new. Barbados, Guyana, the OECS and Trinidad and Tobago shared the same currency in imperial times. The Trinidad and Tobago currency was once tied to the EC dollar under the Sterling Area Agreement. But as national currencies became inextricably intertwined to sovereign identities the notion of a single currency union faded and a system of bilateral central bank swap agreements emerged.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that established the CSME in 2001 and which came into force in 2006, enabled free currency convertibility among Commonwealth countries. Up to the 1970s, the Intra-Regional Payments Scheme (IRPS) witnessed the offsetting of payments with periodic net settlements. This allowed uninterrupted movement into the CARICOM Multilateral Clearing Facility (CMCF) in 1976 which collapsed by 1983 due to substantial unpaid balances by Guyana.
Interest in a common currency emerged once again in the 1990s, with the CARICOM Heads of Government (HOG) commissioning the CARICOM Central Bank Governors to offer advice on Caribbean monetary integration. In July 1992, the HOG approved the recommendations of the Committee of Governors which proposed the creation of supranational monetary authority and a single currency with a value pegged to the US dollar. Then nothing.
Twenty per cent of global COVID-19 cases and a third of global deaths occurred in LAC countries. High infection rates and sharp economic contraction has had crushing social and economic consequences. FinTech innovations are the scaffold that support the entry of new technology-centric private entities into the payments arena allowing digital money and its variants such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins to flourish.
Can digitalization of the financial sector and the emergence of Caribbean FinTech companies like Bitt revive regional integration which Before Corona (BC) has eluded us? Can Sand Dollars and the ECCB equivalent along with those small island states that have ‘more of nothing’ help LAC states to regain ground and reclaim market share? Or, is it too late? Have the ‘de-risking’ battles of ‘off-shore tax heavens’ and adroit legislative reorganizations inside open Sandboxes whittled away the position of those with ‘nothing in place’?