Nigeria’s move to a cashless society

A cash-driven society with little banking infrastructure raises problems that Paga’s founder and chief executive officer Tayo Oviosu hoes to resolve.

Biden the portfolio manager …

Opinion

Alton Drew

Elected officials are constrained when it comes to their transparency as “portfolio managers.”  In a previous post I shared my insights into how taxpayers should treat the United States like a colony.  In the current American colony, the “mother country” is now made up of the individuals, corporations, and sovereign governments that own American debt: bonds, treasury bills, treasury notes, etc.  And when it comes to individuals, it is specifically those individuals who derive most or all of their income from the yields earned on the debt plus any equity they hold in public corporations; the “rentiers.” 

Public “portfolio managers” should be managing the American nation-state on behalf of American and foreign national rentiers.  And while America should not manage its resources for the benefit of sovereign nations that may be holding American treasury notes or American currency in their vaults, American “portfolio managers” should be mindful of the constraints on monetary and fiscal policy created by foreign ownership of dollar denominated debt and U.S. currency.

The incoming Biden administration has made no mention of this constraint.  Ironically his more poignant discussions on “Build Back Better” sound more like a rehash of the Trump administration’s “Make America Great Again” mantra with a twist of “diversity and inclusion” policy thrown in to appease voters in America’s ethnic minority class while promising to strengthen the manufacturing sector.

At the end of the day, “Build Back Better” is a strategic communications campaign aimed at the “end user” class; the group that sees government as “doer and savior”; the entity that protects and takes care of us; that looks out for the little guy.  Mr Biden aims no explicit public remarks to the “mother country” class, the class I referred to before that trades on the rents they expect from the American economy.  Being transparent as to the needs of the “mother country” class would also provide the remaining 99% of us an education as to the reason why the United States, as well as the other 180-plus portfolios around the globe exist and who these portfolios are truly managed for.    

It is unfortunate that Mr Biden cannot be transparent about the needs of the “mother country” class.  In my opinion, this class has inherited the ability to create and act on a vision that spawned the political economy Americans live in today.  That vision is one where capital is allowed to seek out an opportunity vacuum and morph into the going concern necessary for bringing that opportunity to fruition.

Included in that vision is the need for skillful portfolio managers that design and implement policy actions that create a playing field for traders to compete with each other in the Game of Capital, with the objective being he who has the most coin at the end of the day wins.  And the “mother country” class has an interest in Mr Biden managing the portfolio well.

And there is always another candidate vying for the job….       

Treat America as a colony. Extract and profit as much as you can …

Opinion by Alton Drew

The typical American’s view toward the economy is what can this economy do for me; provide to me. There is this notion that social, cultural, or political allegiance to the economic system should be compensated with some guaranteed system of job or business opportunity. An economic system goes a long way in demonstrating its validity to taxpayers if it can provide jobs and an environment that supports trade, but relying on promises to “Make America great again” or “Build back better” is not wise or practical. You are setting yourself up for failure or mental and emotional depression.

Rather, it may be best to maintain a colonizer mentality. Yes, it is ideal that the governing authority of a jurisdiction have in place rules that facilitate and protect trade but that is not enough for any success. I find most political rhetoric on the economy is fluff and puffery and have observed that all substance in trade is generated from the “bottom” and on the “side.”

On the bottom is the extractor or producer, capturing and processing the resources necessary for creating goods and services. Coming in from the side are the traders who are constantly in search of information on consumer tastes, producer capacity, and opportunities for capital deployment. Also on the side is the capital, the holder of the “dry powder”, pooling resources with other holders of capital and weighing competing narratives provided by traders and merchants that describe the best investment opportunities.

Again, if government is doing its job, it is first and foremost ensuring optimal conversion of human, natural, and financial resources by implementing and enforcing rules that allow for accumulating and processing resources by traders and liberal movement of capital from investors. It is effective facilitation that gives elected officials fodder for validating and promoting the political economy.

The colonizer mentality tells us to keep an arm’s length between ourselves and the politician. I would argue they need us more than we need them. The politician cheerleads the economy but the producer, trader, and banker give the politician something to cheer about. While the politician’s rhetoric helps her hold sway over a voting public, the globalisation of capital and freedom to search for economic opportunity in alternative jurisdictions gives the producer/trader/banker some sway.

Both sides, the political and the commercial, need each other but the commercial side should avoid the populism and emotionalism that relegates most taxpayers to the “consumed” class, a class stuck in the downward spiral of selling time for pennies, where the failure to spend time on accumulating knowledge necessary for creating “currency” is creating, in my opinion, an increasingly devalued populace; one prone to the button-pushing of politicians.

Be non-emotional toward the political economy. America does not exist to nurture or cater to your emotions.

Are currency traders willing to pay more for the US dollar in face of US election? ….

Capital abhors a vacuum and even with the U.S. general election three days away, capital will try to cut through the campaign noise and seek out a return. From a political and legal event perspective, traders should assess the strength of legal challenges to voting, especially challenges raised by the Republican Party.

Republicans and Democrats have been building their legal teams for over a year and both will be on the lookout for voting irregularities including evidence of voter suppression or voter fraud. Republicans are expected to challenge authenticity of mail-in ballots and the deadlines for when these ballots are expected to be received. Traders should be particularly mindful of the intensity of Republican challenges given that incumbent president Donald J. Trump is running behind Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden in national polls.

Real Clear Politics has Mr Biden polling at 51.3% versus Mr Trumps 43.5% during the period 21 October to 30 October 2020. PredictIt is pricing a .65 probability of a Democratic takeover of the White House versus a probability of .40 that the Republican Party maintains control of the Oval Office.

But the foreign exchange markets appear to see the value of the US dollar priced in various currencies increasing as we get closer to the election.

Country/Currency24 October25 October26 October27 October28 October29 October30 October31 October
Mexico (MXN)20.921020.840820.847620.966720.927121.169421.310121.2962
Canada (CAD)1.313611.311911.312201.318291.317761.325551.332211.33172
Japan (Yen)104.72104.66104.67104.87104.61104.30104.44104.49
China (Yuan)6.677336.676806.676806.699166.705156.716726.711576.68746
Euro.84496.84274.84288.84578.84622.85056.85398.85694
Eastern Caribbean Dollar2.702.702.702.702.702.702.702.70
Brazil (BRL)5.601805.618405.618185.621155.644745.722425.758215.76506
Price of US Dollar in selected exchange rates 24 October to 31 October 2020

With the exception of Japan and the Eastern Caribbean, the prices in foreign currency offered for a US Dollar have been inching up over the last week. Traders in the above nations reflect a number of major US trading partners and the increase in the amount traders in these countries are willing to offer a seller of the US dollar tells me that at a minimum, they have positive expectation in the potential for growth in the US and that public policies offered by Mr Biden might not deter expected growth or value of the dollar.

Again, traders should be on the lookout for any legal, legislative, or regulatory actions that thwart the ability of Mr Biden to garner enough votes to win the Electoral College.

Additional source: OANDA.com

No, the banks are not the bad guys …

Alton Drew

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System begin their two-day meeting next Wednesday, one day after the general election. No changes in inter-bank rates are expected, but what will be of interest is a likely repeat of the plea that Congress and the Executive implement a fiscal policy that keeps the economy on life support during the pandemic. Depending on who wins the Electoral College, Chairman Jerome Powell’s post-meeting comments will be either soothing or raise more hairs on the back of the public’s necks.

Mr Powell will reiterate the need for fiscal policy because monetary policy can only do so much. Monetary policy has as one of its goals the backstopping of its member banks, providing needed liquidity when the credit pipes become clogged by opening the flow of credit to businesses via the banks whose inability to lend could stem from not having enough capital to support additional lending.

Fiscal policy, the Fed chairman will likely remind us next Thursday, does a better job of getting cash into the hands of consumers resulting in increased personal expenditures. Consumer spending has historically driven around seventy percent of national income, and that the kind of spending that is needed now.

But this relief is going to be temporary. The more sustaining stimulus will come from an economy that opens back up. If the polls continue to hold and Joe Biden takes office in January 2021, he could take actions to keep needed capital in the United States that probably props up the economy. Would Mr Biden want to tax this capital as part of his promise to bring about an equitable tax environment where the affluent pay their fair share of taxes or will he back pedal on taxing captured capital in order to quell any attempts at tax avoidance while ensuring the availability of stimulative spending?

Mr Biden may also be reminded that in an economy that is credit driven, where banks are the information search agents that help capital seek out higher returns by identifying worthwhile investments, he could also leave banks, their investors, and their depositors off of his tax hit list thus helping the Federal Reserve further unclog the credit pipes.

Federal Reserve reduces minimum loan size for credit facilities designed to help small businesses during pandemic …

Source: Federal Reserve

“The Federal Reserve Board on Friday adjusted the terms of the Main Street Lending Program in two important ways to better target support to smaller businesses that employ millions of workers and are facing continued revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. In particular, the minimum loan size for three Main Street facilities available to for-profit and non-profit borrowers has been reduced from $250,000 to $100,000 and the fees have been adjusted to encourage the provision of these smaller loans. The Board and Department of the Treasury also issued a new frequently asked question clarifying that Paycheck Protection Program loans of up to $2 million may be excluded for purposes of determining the maximum loan size under the Main Street Lending Program, if certain requirements are met, which should also help smaller businesses access Main Street loans.

The Main Street Lending Program supports lending to small and medium-sized for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations that were in sound financial condition before the COVID-19 pandemic but lack access to credit on reasonable terms. To allow borrowers time to recover from the pandemic, the program offers several five-year loan options, with deferred principal and interest payments for qualified businesses and nonprofits. Loan documents reflecting the new terms are expected to be available to registered lenders within the next week.

To date, the Main Street program has made almost 400 loans totaling $3.7 billion, providing support to businesses from a wide range of industries. The program was established with the approval of the Treasury Secretary and with $75 billion in equity provided by the Treasury Department from the CARES Act.” — Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

For media inquiries, call 202-452-2955.

Identifying the economic value within the African Diaspora and designing currency to transmit it …

Today while waiting for a haircut, a lovely young lady, who was waiting on her companion, asked me if I was a professor.  I was caught off guard by the question for it seemed almost prescient in nature.  I had been an adjunct professor back in Maryland, I told her.  She then asked if I had been on television. Again I informed her that I had made two appearances on a business news channel.  I expected the exchange to end there since her companion was finished with his haircut, but fortunately the conversation did not end there.  She proceeded to ask my opinion about the current state of the economy as it impacted black people.  I was happy to oblige since the topic was interesting and yes, when you get to engage a very attractive woman on the state of the political economy (underscore very attractive), you don’t pass it up.

The conversation turned to whether African Diaspora communities could use their own currency.  My answer was yes, but to get there we have to first identify a resource that could be used to generate an underlying value for the currency.  A true community is built on a resource the extraction, processing, and distribution of which leads to an industry that generates the income necessary for sustaining the communities members.

Second, there has to be a banking/financing resource in place to convert the assets of the underlying resource into loanable funds.

Right now we have very little of the above two components.  For example, Africans in America hold very little of its capital.  By some estimates, Africans in America hold approximately two percent of total capital in the United States. In addition, consider farm holdings by Africans in America.  Africans in America hold approximately two percent of all farms in the United States, according to the website ShoppeBlack.us.

Compounding the farmland problem is the lack of strong financial infrastructure through which not only lending can be accomplished but also trade in the securities that have underlying them black farm output.  There are approximately 45 black-owned farms located in 20 U.S. states.  There are, however, 14 black owned banks located in eleven states to support these farms.  It is a strong financial infrastructure that provides funding for land acquisition, seed, and new equipment and the current black owned facilities for lending are not enough.

Money is created when loaned funds for land acquisition, seed, and equipment are placed in a farmer’s checking account.  At this point black-owned banks could issue currency distributed by the Federal Reserve or create its own currency where a special currency is designed to be used by black farmers and any other industries related to or depending on black-owned farms including black-owned suppliers, black-owned restaurants, black-owned pharmacies and wellness stores, etc.

There is theory and there is application. With one to two trillion dollars in output, Africans in America could invest in more farmland while expanding their financial infrastructure in order to support lending, securitization of debt, and issuance of their own debt.  Where more land is not available, the next move may have to be the cultivation of intellectual capital and thus make greater inroads into the creative industry space.

On the other hand, Africans in America, rather than trying to replicate the existing model, may have to consider a completely new model for generating and trading currency, one where the resource is unique to and managed solely by Africans in America.

 

Of banks and the politics of coronavirus support …

Politics of banking

Earlier today, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Sub-committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, sent a letter to Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, and Jovita Carranza, Administrator of the Small Business Administration, requesting that Treasury and the SBA take steps to ensure that $130 billion remaining under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP) are allocated to businesses truly in need and that both agencies increase the level of transparency about the recipients of funds that have already been expended.

According to the letter sent by Chairman Clyburn, Congress is concerned that with no clear guidance issued by either the Treasury Department or the SBA, larger businesses that already had lending relationships with banks that distributed the funding, would be first in line for the lion share of funds.  It was partly due to this fear that Congress followed up the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) with the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which provided an additional $310 billion in funding and set aside $60 billion to be distributed by community lenders with a track record for lending money to smaller borrowers.

The political controversy surrounding the support program is spawned by Chairman Clyburn’s that banks release the names of all recipients of paycheck protection program funding.  Republicans apparently have not signed off on this request given the lack of Republican signatures on Chairman Clyburn’s letter.  In addition, Secretary Mnuchin has referred to the requested information as proprietary, a description that Chairman Clyburn does not agree with.

The issue appears more a political one than a market one.  Neither demand or supply for these funds are the result of economic interaction between the seeker of loanable funds and provider but more the result of government imposed shutdowns, and the resulting slowdown in the economy as social distancing and quarantines have reduced foot traffic in restaurants, stores, and automobile showrooms to a halt and in a number of cases has caused businesses to seek bankruptcy protection.

The big banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Truist, Citibank, and Wells Fargo have been called out by critics for hooking up larger businesses with more established relationships versus the mom and pop with ten employees on the verge of shut down.

But as Paul Miller of Miller & Co. LLP shared in a post on BloombergTax.com, there are alternative sources of funding for small businesses out there.  They include:

  • The Employee Retention Credit;
  • Local and state coronavirus resources (see http://www.fundera.com);
  • Crowd-funding;
  • Venture capital; and
  • Traditional lines of credit.