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Michael Pisa is a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, where his work focuses on how digitalization is shaping economic development. He is currently overseeing a project on how governments can use and regulate the use of data in a way that supports innovation, growth, and development while protecting individuals against abuse. Before joining CGD, Pisa served as a senior advisor to the Under Secretary for International Affairs at the US Treasury Department, where he helped organize and inform the Obama Administration’s efforts to support financial inclusion abroad. In earlier roles, he served as deputy director of Treasury’s Office of International Banking, and acting US financial attaché in Afghanistan. Pisa received a PhD in political science from the University of California, San Diego.
As the price of bitcoin continues its dizzying rise—the currency briefly surpassed $19,000 yesterday—the already passionate debate about its role in the global economy has become even more heated. Over the last two months, prominent economists and financiers, including Citi CEO Jamie Dimon, former IMF Chief Economist Kenneth Rogoff, and former Chair of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke have all voiced skepticism about the currency, triggering a loud response from the crypto community.
When NATO forces entered Afghanistan following the attacks of September 11, 2001, much of the country’s infrastructure, as well as its public institutions and underlying social fabric, had been destroyed by more than two and a half decades of conflict. At the time, landmines were still killing an average of 40 Afghans a day. Over the last 15 years, the international community, led by the United States, has invested massive resources in an attempt to transform Afghanistan into a more stable, modern, and prosperous country.
While blockchain-based solutions have the potential to increase efficiency and improve outcomes dramatically in some use cases and more marginally (if at all) in others, key constraints must be resolved before blockchain technology can meet its full potential in this space. Overcoming these constraints will require increased dialogue between the development and technology communities and a stronger commitment to collecting and sharing data about what’s working and what isn’t in pilot projects that use the technology.
It has been more than 100 days since the Modi government declared that the two largest denomination notes in India—the 500 and 1000 rupee notes—would no longer be accepted as legal tender. The announcement of “demonetization” had an immediate and sweeping effect on Indian households, which were no longer allowed to use the notes (outside of a few narrow exceptions) and were given less than eight weeks to deposit or exchange them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announced a bold measure on Wednesday to reduce the role of unaccounted for cash or “black money” in the country’s economy by “de-monetizing” higher-denomination currency notes. The new policy bans the use of 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee currency notes. While this measure may have the positive (though potentially temporary) effect of forcing illicit activity out of the regulated economy, the process could be disorderly, with the poorest members of society bearing the brunt of the disruption.
In November 2015, CGD published a report on the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering policies for poor countries, focusing on three groups: migrant workers who send remittances to their families, vulnerable people who are displaced by conflict or natural disasters and are in need of foreign assistance, and businesses that rely on cross-border trade. Since then, the international community has made several efforts to address the problem of financial exclusion created in part by these policies.
One of the bubblier aspects of the recent enthusiasm for all things blockchain has been the rise in popularity of initial coin offerings (ICOs), also known as token sales. By design, the acronym calls to mind the more traditional fundraising model of initial public offerings (IPOs), in which companies sell equity stakes to investors. With ICOs however, companies use blockchain technology to issue digital assets (usually referred to as tokens or coins) to investors rather than equity stakes. Another key difference—at least for the time being—is that ICOs are virtually unregulated. In fact, many of the advantages ICOs have over more traditional fundraising platforms derive from their unregulated status.
A growing number of humanitarian aid organizations operating in conflict zones are having trouble finding banks willing to work with them. We attended an international stakeholder dialogue on ensuring financial services for nonprofit organizations, and offer our preliminary thoughts here.