CAPITULATION? U.S. lawmakers grilled Libra board member David Marcus last year. The consortium has overhauled its plans. (Credit: House Financial Services Committee)
Leah Callon-Butler, a CoinDesk columnist, is the director of Emfarsis, a consulting firm focused on the role of technology in advancing economic development in Asia.
The recent update to the Libra white paper has re-ignited debate around Facebook’s digital currency ambitions, albeit not to summer-2019 temperatures. “Haven’t read it yet” or “not been following for a while” are common responses when I ask my peers how they feel about the latest developments. Given how many of them believe Facebook’s original ambitions have been muzzled under government hostility and regulatory pressure, the declining interest from the blockchain community is perhaps not that surprising. But for those remaining who have read it, it’s become cool in crypto circles to slag off the project as “just another PayPal.” A lazy comparison, really, which insinuates isn’t capable of architecting much more than what he’s already done.
But given Libra’s purported focus on delivering financial inclusion for emerging economies, and now a new pledge to provide a set of fiat-backed stablecoins like pseudo-Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), I’d argue that now is not the time to look away from Libra. With 1.7 billion unbanked people around the world, and a global remittance market , Facebook and friends are saying they’ll pony up to deliver worldwide payment rails that could finally solve the challenge of onboarding the masses – banked or not – to the digital economy. Even with the remaining regulatory hurdles in their way, this could be an enticing proposal for central banks that lack the means to develop their own CBDC, or those looking to hedge their CBDC bets while they wait to see how the rest of the world moves to navigate this new frontier.