G7 says Libra should not launch until risks ‘adequately addressed’

Small toy figures are seen on representations of virtual currency in front of the Libra logo in this illustration picture. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)
Updated 18 October 2019

G7 says Libra should not launch until risks ‘adequately addressed’

  • A currency like Libra could undermine sovereign nations’ control over their exchange rates, warns France’s economy minister
  • If it enters circulation, Libra would offer an alternative to traditional bank financial transfers

WASHINGTON: Facebook should not launch its global digital currency Libra until proper regulations are in place to handle the potential risks, the Group of Seven said Thursday.
And France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned that a currency like Libra could undermine sovereign nations’ control over their exchange rates.
“It’s a matter of democracy, not just a simple economic question,” Le Maire told reporters, saying Facebook’s currency could have an “immediate global reach” through the social network’s huge membership.
Le Maire presented the Group of Seven nation’s statement on Libra, saying “no global stablecoin project should begin operation until the legal, regulatory and oversight challenges and risks are adequately addressed,” including the potential for money laundering and terror financing.
But, he told reporters, “The key question is the question of sovereignty.”
“Do we want a private company to have... the same power, and the same sovereignty, as democratic states” over currencies.
Libra, which would be backed by reserve assets unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, has faced a steady drumbeat of stern warnings from central bankers and financial regulators.
European Central Bank board member Benoit Coeure presented a report on digital currencies to the G7 finance ministers, who are gathering on the margins of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
The report said a framework for oversight of Libra “is an absolute prerequisite,” and urged regulators to coordinate their work to prevent issuers from seeking out the most favorable country from which to operate.
If it enters circulation, Libra would offer an alternative to traditional bank financial transfers, a disruptive change that has aroused resistance and skepticism.
Facebook’s digital currency chief David Marcus told reporters in Washington that the issues raised by Le Maire are “legitimate concerns.”
“We’re determined to answer these concerns with real solutions that will meet or exceed the standards of the current system,” he told a small group of reporters at an event in Washington.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, was in Washington as well Thursday, and is due to testify before the US Congress next week on the social media network’s impact on financial services.
The Libra Association, which will oversee Facebook’s proposed currency and officially launched Monday in Geneva, also said in a statement that Libra “is being designed to respect national sovereignty over monetary policy in the digital space, not undermine it.”
But central bankers remain concerned about the prospects.
Lael Brainard, an influential member of the US Federal Reserve board, said Facebook’s proposed currency presented a host of risks and regulatory challenges for preventing money-laundering and assuring financial stability, and could be a challenge to the traditional role played by banks.
“There are likely to be financial stability risks for a stablecoin network with global reach,” she said in a speech Wednesday. “If not managed effectively, liquidity, credit, market, or operational risks — alone or in combination — could trigger a loss of confidence and a classic run.”
China, which is not a G7 member and decided two years ago to block cryptocurrency transactions, has recently sped up plans to introduce its own digital money.
Libra also has faced challenges from within after major financial and commercial players in recent weeks have backed out of the project, including Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, PayPal and the online travel firm Bookings Holdings.
The 21 founding members include the online payments company PayU, the telecoms firms Vodafone and Iliad, as well as tech outfits Uber, Spotify and Farfetch, blockchain operations such as Anchorage, Xapo and Coinbase and the venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Ribbit Capital and non-profits Kiva and Mercy Corps.


Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

Updated 27 September 2020

Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

  • Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output

DUBAI: Tunisia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and is expected to decline further before 2020 ends.

Tourist activity has shrunk by 60 percent, the country’s tourism minister Habib Ammar said, and that figure could reach 70 percent to reflect the World Tourism Organization’s estimate for global tourism.

Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output and is the country’s second biggest employer, with around 400,000 people involved in the industry, after the agricultural sector.

The number of tourists rose 13.6 percent to 9.5 million in 2019, a record level, but Tunisia’s 10-million-visitor target for this year was sidelined when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Despite this quandary, the government is considering various proposals to help stakeholders in the sector, state news agency TAP reported.

A gradual recovery of tourism activity will be recorded next year, both worldwide and nationwide, ensuring that the tourist units that will be preserved will have the capacity to accommodate tourists, it added.

Ammar also said that government remains committed to implement support plans such as the rescheduling of the settlement of bank and social security fund debts, and extending credits over longer repayment periods.

The tourism ministry is working with all intervening parties to implement this measure, which will make it possible to provide liquidity to the tourist units, and consequently, to guarantee a better future for the tourist activity, he added.

“This will also allow the ministry to develop a strategy and a clear plan for the sector in the medium and long term.”