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20 January 2021

Leah Callon-Butler: To See Libra's Potential, Look at the Philippines, Not the US - CoinDesk

Leah Callon-Butler: To See Libra's Potential, Look at the Philippines, Not the US - CoinDesk

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Given how many of them believe Facebook’s original ambitions have been muzzled under government hostility and regulatory pressure, the declining interest from the blockchain community is perhaps not that surprising.

With 1.7 billion unbanked people around the world, and a global remittance market buckling under the pressure of a pandemic, Facebook and friends are saying they’ll pony up to deliver worldwide payment rails that could finally solve the challenge of onboarding the masses – banked or not – to the digital economy.

Even with the remaining regulatory hurdles in their way, this could be an enticing proposal for central banks that lack the means to develop their own CBDC, or those looking to hedge their CBDC bets while they wait to see how the rest of the world moves to navigate this new frontier.

Now, overlay this mobile-first, tech-savvy culture with the reality that the Philippines is still a cash-based society struggling to include the vast majority of its citizens in the mainstream financial system.

In 2018, digital payments accounted for just 10 percent of the total volume of payments in the Philippines.

Even with the rapid rise of e-commerce, 83 percent of Filipinos are known to search for what they want online, only to go into the store to purchase with cash.

COVID-19 might force in-store behaviors like this to change but still, where items are home delivered, 93 percent of Filipinos will pay Cash on Delivery. .

“Libra has the potential to become mainstream because of Facebook’s large user base, which could positively impact the broader blockchain space,” she says, adding that the BSP has been crypto-forward since the early days, having committed to reaching the financially underserved through digital innovation. .

So this is where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision really rings true: If it was as easy to send money to the Philippines as it is to send a photo via Facebook Messenger, and if recipients could pay for all they need within the app, they’d never have to cash out again.

This is where the small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) that represent 98 percent of local firms in the Philippines, could bring real momentum to the mobile-first movement.

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