Could cryptocurrency dethrone the dollar?

Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney believes that virtual currency is likely to replace the dollar as ‘king of the foreign exchange market.’ (AFP/File)
Updated 01 September 2019

Could cryptocurrency dethrone the dollar?

  • The greenback is likely to lose its sparkle owing to globalization, economists believe

LONDON: Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney has suggested that a virtual currency, modeled on Facebook’s Libra, could one day replace the dollar as king of the foreign exchange market.

The BoE chief aired vague proposals for a so-called “Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” at the recent Jackson Hole Symposium of central bankers.

Here is a brief assessment of why the greenback is losing its lustre and the outlook for Carney’s proposed new digital currency, which would be supported by major central banks around the world.

The dollar has been the world’s reference currency since the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944, when various key units were fixed to the value of the greenback. It has retained its global supremacy ever since, thanks to the economic and political clout of the US.

“The dominant currency is always that of the world’s biggest political power,” noted Philippe Waechter, head of research at Ostrum Asset Management.

The dollar accounted for almost 62 percent of global foreign exchange reserves in the first quarter of 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The European single currency was second with 20.2 percent, while China’s yuan comprised only 2 percent despite the country’s rise to the rank of the world’s second biggest economy behind the US.

Although the dollar has lost its sparkle owing to globalization and the changing world economic order, gyrations in the US unit still impact economies elsewhere.

“US developments have significant spillovers onto both the trade performance and the financial conditions of countries even with relatively limited direct exposure to the US economy,” Carney said at the recent bankers’ meet in Wyoming.

When the greenback appreciates, so do repayments for many emerging nations because their debts tend to be denominated in dollars. The BoE chief, who steps down in January, added: “In the longer term, we need to change the game.”

The public sector, in the form of central banks, could instead provide the best support for a new virtual currency, according to Carney. “It is an open question whether such a new (cryptocurrency) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” he said.

Yet central bankers and world leaders alike remain anxious over the current crop of virtual currencies because they are unregulated.

US President Donald Trump himself has lashed out at Bitcoin and Libra for being “based on thin air” and having no standing or dependability — unlike the dollar.

Commentators believe Washington is unlikely to allow the greenback to lose its cherished status as the world’s premier reserve currency.

“The United States will simply not allow it to happen without a fight. Nobody in its position would,” said Rabobank analysts.


At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

Updated 24 January 2020

At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

  • A single tree that to bear 40 different types of apple

DAVOS: The World Economic Forum is not all about the fourth industrial revolution or the rise of AI.

You can also find all manner of strange and intriguing products on display from biodegradable plastic made from algae to wallpaper made from recycled corn husks.

One stand titled “How do you design a tree?” is part of a conservation effort where a single tree is designed to bear 40 different types of apple.

Another stand displays colored seaweed on a rack, showing how clothes can be dyed in a sustainable, non-chemically corrosive manner.

Propped along a large wall is Fernando Laposse’s wallpaper made of variations of purple corn husks that are reinforced with recycled cardboard and cork to create wallpaper and furniture. The husks come from corn that needs very little water and can be grown in the desert, which makes it all the more sustainable.

“This initiative helps the local economy as it brings in jobs and a resurgence of crafts and food traditions while also ensuring sustainability,” Laposse said.

Another display shows a machine that extracts pellets from a mixture of algae and starch and is used to create a thread that is the base of 3D printing. These sustainable, biodegradable plastics made from algae are being experimented with in different regions.

With the rise of deep fakes — a branch of synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness — another stand delivers a warning on the looming dangers of unregulated software.

The Davos forum prides itself on its sustainability, and key topics have included climate, mobility, energy and the circular economy. Everything is recyclable, and participants must download an application in order to keep up with the program and any changes — a move to cut down on paper waste.