Digital cash systems built on the blockchain must retain the qualities of physical money in order to attract more users in developing countries — and must be able to do so without regulatory constraints — according to Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire.
In a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, titled "Remittances for Recovery: A New Era of Digital Money," Allaire discussed all the features that make physical cash an ideal medium for exchange. There’s a reason why “cash is king,” he said, referring to physical money’s portability, privacy and role in securing individual sovereignty.
“Cash is a really great product [...] People like cash. It’s private, it’s secure, it’s a bearer instrument, it provides final settlement between you and a counterparty,” he said, adding:
“There’s so much energy in the world aimed at taking away the features that make cash so powerful. There’s a reason why people in countries around the world actually would prefer cash over mobile money because it gives them more self-sovereignty, it gives them more economic freedom.”
Allaire’s comments were in response to Asif Saleh’s observation that remittances via mobile wallets are limited by the destination country’s lack of adoption of digital technologies. Saleh is the executive director of BRAC Bangladesh, a nonprofit organization aimed at tackling poverty.
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“A lot of the policy and regulatory issues that limit the power of moving money have to do with stripping people of their economic freedoms,” Allaire said. “We have to think about solving for these problems by building models that actually provide for forms of digital cash that have the features that make cash attractive to people.”
Something as simple as a SIM card allows people all over the world to participate in the global internet. That mobile identity, Allaire said, should also allow people to incorporate digital wallets where they can send and receive cryptocurrencies such as USD Coin (USDC).
“There are models that can make this work [...] Policymakers and regulators have to adapt to that as opposed to trying to get everyone to adapt to their constraints.”
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Remittances provide low-income countries with relatively stable capital flows as migrants send money back home to their families. It’s estimated that remittances account for roughly 4% of the gross domestic product of low-income countries and approximately 1.5% of the GDP of middle-income countries. Proponents of decentralized finance (DeFi) say it could reduce remittance fees by billions of dollars annually.