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Firstly, I have first hand knowledge - including direct contact with the general manager of the central bank - of the ongoing 'FactoRepo' initiative in Ecuador whereby any VAT-registered firm will be able to discount VAT invoices directly with the Central Bank, and thereby access working capital.

Since Ecuador is in fact 'dollarised', what FactoRepo will achieve for their Central Bank is a reduction in their reliance on dollars from a gross figure to a net figure during whatever settlement cycle they opt for. Reduced reliance on the Fed is politically attractive.

It also reduces reliance on private banks as credit intermediaries, but there is a potential role for them as service provider managers. Of course, a FactoRepo technique would work perfectly well anywhere there is a VAT system, but I suspect that banks would insist on extracting a monopoly rent that rendered it unattractive to users.

Secondly, this could be a transitional stage to a true 'Peer to Peer' credit clearing union.  In a true P2P model, businesses would issue mutually guaranteed undated credits/IOUs subject to 'guarantee limits' managed by service providers, whose agreed costs would be shared by a suitable service charge.

The mutual guarantee would be backed by payments made by both sellers and buyers into a default 'Pool' in common ownership, and the service providers would receive a share of this payment after defaults, thus aligning their interests.  

In terms of settlement of credit, any payments (which are not strictly necessary provided guarantee payments and service charges are paid) would be applied on a FIFO basis to the longest outstanding credits first.

In addition 'settlement agent' software eg Ripple Pay could seek out 'chains'. So if A owes B owes C owes D owes A then these obligations may be netted out down the chain. This is exactly how the bilateral 'off-exchange' Brent/BFOE crude oil forward contract works on contract expiry, so that open bilateral Brent contracts may be 'booked out' and price differences settled in dollars.

The outcome for (say) Ecuador would be that no actual Fed dollars would then be needed at all, and the US dollar would then be used - in the absence of anything more credible - only as a pure, abstract, 'Value Standard' or unit of measure.

For users, any excess in the Pool could be distributed equally as a dividend, and of course this would reduce negative balances and increase positive balances. The outcome would be a net transfer from those who use the guarantee to those who provide it, thereby sharing the fruits of the 'Credit Commons'.

Now, evidently the European Commission is not going to entertain such suggestions but maybe the Taxation and Customs Union staff economists will learn something new. For instance, the eye-popping idea that
sellers may discount VAT invoices directly with the Central Bank
Oh, dear, making the Central Bank carry out a useful economic function.

It's all about moving the Overton window, and about exploring new ways of doing things. We know the European Commission will choose the worst, most regressive, policy, and the one giving the financial intermediaries and the big IT corporations all the power, but we can still make a contribution to the consultation.

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 18th, 2010 at 03:23:02 AM EST
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