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BLOCKCHAIN, THE BOOST OF TRUST?

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BLOCKCHAIN, THE BOOST OF TRUST?

By Ciaran Dynes, VP Products, Talend 

Technology holds the potential for unprecedented disruption, not only shaking up the collaborative economy but also of giving decision-makers back their trust in company data.

Ciaran Dynes

Ciaran Dynes

It first appeared in 2008 with the Bitcoin currency, this year, Blockchain technology achieved the summit of Gartner’s ‘Hype Cycle’. While many economists or policy actors have expressed their interest to use the technology (i.e. the government of Honduras, Ghana and Georgia wish to secure their land titles in a Blockchain and, in the private sector, several financial institutions have begun to experiment), we see that concrete and real applications are not common place. Even if the market associated with this technology is estimated by Gartner to reach 10 billion dollars in 2022.

Uberising Uber

However, Blockchain’s potential for disruption is unprecedented. By negating the need for a trusted third party to set up a direct relationship between two groups and by ensuring the security of this relationship and generating an unfalsifiable history (thanks to its distributed character), Blockchain may well contribute to uberising Uber! A system based on “smart contracts” would, in fact, make it possible to place drivers and customers in direct contact, while securing payment. The collaborative economy, currently dominated by intermediates, i.e. Blablacar, AirBnB, Drivy, and Uber, would enter into a second phase of de-intermediation.

For certain observers, it’s only a matter of time. While it took 30 years between the first e-mail and the advent of online banking, Big Data only needed ten years to appear at the top of marketing, logistics, and even HR priorities. Digital transformation requires Artificial Intelligence, and predictive analysis that were only a short while ago Hollywood clichés, but are now very real and in fact at the heart of the fight against terrorism.

Ensuring traceability of data

One of the primary concerns associated with Big Data resides in its governance. What data do we use? Where do we store them? How can we ensure usage is compliant with the regulations? Who updates them? The failure of initial projects is often explained by the eternal silos slowing down business agility. But recently, the appearance of data lakes has helped to break down those silos, finally giving access to the data that is relevant to business users, or even partners and customers, in real time.

In the same way, Blockchain appearance could make it possible to secure some processes in a Big Data approach (e.g. the authentication and traceability of data). The prospects are endless: In the field of health, first and foremost, where confidentiality issues are tied to personal data, but also in the financial sector, where disintermediation is already in progress yet is still coming up against security and regulatory issues. Or another prospect is in the insurance sector, where Blockchain provides new momentum for the first peer-to-peer models and establishing the foundations of the automated insurance contract.

Very small businesses and SMBs are also concerned: A library can administer its book loans and subscription fees; a startup can manage its financing. With the emergence of Smart Cities, consumers can even generate the use and distribution of the electricity produced by solar panels.

Generating trust

Beyond the business world, society itself can take advantage of this technology (e.g. to secure online voting and set up a framework of trust which would make it possible to multiply direct consultations with citizens, such as in the case of a referendum), thus reinforcing participatory democracy.

Trust. The word means ‘reveal’. According to IDC, around 30% of the decision-makers decline to use their company’s data due to a lack of trust and governance. With Blockchain, a trust catalyst, the use of data could be considerably amplified. Like artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 and the collaborative economy may, as we have seen, bring about major changes both business and social. These are the organisations that must contribute to it, through their experiments and by discovering new uses that will forge the society of tomorrow.

Finance

Sunak warns of bill to be paid to tackle Britain’s ‘exposed’ finances – FT

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Sunak warns of bill to be paid to tackle Britain's 'exposed' finances - FT 1

(Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will use the budget next week to level with the public over the “enormous strains” in the country’s finances, warning that a bill will have to be paid after further coronavirus support, according to an interview with the Financial Times.

Sunak told the newspaper there was an immediate need to spend more to protect jobs as the UK emerged from COVID-19, but warned that Britain’s finances were now “exposed.”

UK exposure to a rise of one percentage point across all interest rates was 25 billion pounds ($34.83 billion) a year to the government’s cost of servicing its debt, Sunak told FT.

“That (is) why I talk about leveling with people about the public finances (challenges) and our plans to address them,” he said.

The government has already spent more than 280 billion pounds in coronavirus relief and tax cuts this year, and his March 3 budget will likely include a new round of spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown.

He is also expected to announce a new mortgage scheme targeted at people with small deposits, the UK’s Treasury announced late on Friday.

Additionally, the government will also announce a new 100 million pound task force to crack-down on COVID-19 fraudsters exploiting government support schemes, it said.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)

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G20 promises no let-up in stimulus, sees tax deal by summer

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G20 promises no let-up in stimulus, sees tax deal by summer 2

By Gavin Jones and Jan Strupczewski

ROME/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The world’s financial leaders agreed on Friday to maintain expansionary policies to help economies survive the effects of COVID-19, and committed to a more multilateral approach to the twin coronavirus and economic crises.

The Italian presidency of the G20 group of the world’s top economies said the gathering of finance chiefs had pledged to work more closely to accelerate a still fragile and uneven recovery.

“We agreed that any premature withdrawal of fiscal and monetary support should be avoided,” Daniele Franco, Italy’s finance minister, told a news conference after the videolinked meeting held by the G20 finance ministers and central bankers.

The United States is readying $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus and the European Union has already put together more than 3 trillion euros ($3.63 trillion) to keep its economies through lockdowns.

But despite the large sums, problems with the global rollout of vaccines and the emergence of new coronavirus variants mean the future path of the recovery remains uncertain.

The G20 is “committed to scaling up international coordination to tackle current global challenges by adopting a stronger multilateral approach and focusing on a set of core priorities,” the Italian presidency said in a statement.

The meeting was the first since Joe Biden – who pledged to rebuild U.S. cooperation in international bodies – U.S. president, and significant progress appeared to have been made on the thorny issue of taxation of multinational companies, particularly web giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the G20 Washington had dropped the Trump administration’s proposal to let some companies opt out of new global digital tax rules, raising hopes for an agreement by summer.

“GIANT STEP FORWARD”

The move was hailed as a major breakthrough by Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire.

Scholz said Yellen told the G20 officials that Washington also planned to reform U.S. minimum tax regulations in line with an OECD proposal for a global effective minimum tax.

“This is a giant step forward,” Scholz said.

Italy’s Franco said the new U.S. stance should pave the way to an overarching deal on taxation of multinationals at a G20 meeting of finance chiefs in Venice in July.

The G20 also discussed how to help the world’s poorest countries, whose economies are being disproportionately hit by the crisis.

On this front there was broad support for boosting the capital of the International Monetary Fund to help it provide more loans, but no concrete numbers were proposed.

To give itself more firepower, the Fund proposed last year to increase its war chest by $500 billion in the IMF’s own currency called the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but the idea was blocked by Trump.

“There was no discussion on specific amounts of SDRs,” Franco said, adding that the issue would be looked at again on the basis of a proposal prepared by the IMF for April.

While the IMF sees the U.S. economy returning to pre-crisis levels at the end of this year, it may take Europe until the middle of 2022 to reach that point.

The recovery is fragile elsewhere too. Factory activity in China grew at the slowest pace in five months in January, and in Japan fourth quarter growth slowed from the previous quarter.

Some countries had expressed hopes the G20 may extend a suspension of debt servicing costs for the poorest countries beyond June, but no decision was taken.

The issue will be discussed at the next meeting, Franco said.

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington Michael Nienaber in Berlin and Crispian Balmer in Rome; editing by John Stonestreet)

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Bank of England’s Haldane says inflation “tiger” is prowling

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Bank of England's Haldane says inflation "tiger" is prowling 3

By Andy Bruce and David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane warned on Friday that an inflationary “tiger” had woken up and could prove difficult to tame as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially requiring the BoE to take action.

In a clear break from other members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who are more relaxed about the outlook for consumer prices, Haldane called inflation a “tiger (that) has been stirred by the extraordinary events and policy actions of the past 12 months”.

“People are right to caution about the risks of central banks acting too conservatively by tightening policy prematurely,” Haldane said in a speech published online. “But, for me, the greater risk at present is of central bank complacency allowing the inflationary (big) cat out of the bag.”

Haldane’s comments prompted British government bond prices to fall to their lowest level in almost a year and sterling to rise as he warned that investors may not be adequately positioned for the risk of higher inflation or BoE rates.

“There is a tangible risk inflation proves more difficult to tame, requiring monetary policymakers to act more assertively than is currently priced into financial markets,” Haldane said.

He pointed to the BoE’s latest estimate of slack in Britain’s economy, which was much smaller and likely to be less persistent than after the 2008 financial crisis, leaving less room for the economy to grow before generating price pressures.

Haldane also cited a glut of savings built by businesses and households during the pandemic that could be unleashed in the form of higher spending, as well as the government’s extensive fiscal response to the pandemic and other factors.

Disinflationary forces could return if risks from COVID-19 or other sources proved more persistent than expected, he said.

But in Haldane’s judgement, inflation risked overshooting the BoE’s 2% target for a sustained period – in contrast to its official forecasts published early this month that showed only a very small overshoot in 2022 and early 2023.

Haldane’s comments put him at the most hawkish end among the nine members of the MPC.

Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden on Friday said risks to UK inflation were broadly balanced.

“I see inflation expectations – whatever measure you look at – well anchored,” Ramsden said following a speech given online, echoing comments from fellow deputy governor Ben Broadbent on Wednesday.

(Editing by Larry King and John Stonestreet)

 

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