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"Financial Inclusion" Isn't So Inclusive in Nigeria



The International Monetary Fund is, in the textbook sense, an international bank, modeled after John Maynard Keynes's idea of a global bank that would lend to countries in distress. Its depositors are governments of developed countries (mostly the US), and its borrowers are governments of low-and middle-income countries that are having problems servicing their debt. This is the face of the IMF. What's under the surface is quite different. A leaked 2008 field manual from the US Army explains the IMF’s role as an instrument of US government influence over other countries:

"Like the economic activity that it is related to, most financial power is unmanaged, routine, and peaceful. However, manipulation of U.S. financial strength can leverage the policies and cooperation of state governments. Financial incentives and disincentives can build and sustain international coalitions waging or supporting U.S. UW [Unconventional Warfare] campaigns. As part of an interagency effort, the U.S. Treasury can recommend changes to U.S. policy that can provide such incentives to state governments and others at the national strategic policy level. Participation in international financial organizations, such as the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), offers the U.S. diplomatic-financial venues to accomplish such coalitions."

"State manipulation of tax and interest rates and other legal and bureaucratic measures can apply unilateral U.S. financial action to open, modify, or close financial flows. Government can apply unilateral and indirect financial power through persuasive influence to international and domestic financial institutions regarding availability and terms of loans, grants, or other financial assistance to foreign state and nonstate actors." (Ch. 2 Page 24)

The "loans" mentioned in that last sentence are the jurisdiction of the IMF, which by this document, sounds more like a financially based foreign policy arm of the US government. In the aftermath of global lockdowns and coordinated WHO COVID policies, the IMF has grown highly enthusiastic about Central Bank Digital Currencies. In a February 2022 statement Chairwoman Kristalina Georgieva said:

"We have moved beyond conceptual discussions of CBDCs and we are now in the phase of experimentation…

As you might expect, the IMF is deeply involved in this issue, including through providing technical assistance to many members. An important role for the Fund is to promote exchange of experience and support the interoperability of CBDCs…

A CBDC requires prudent planning to satisfy policy targets like financial inclusion, and avoid undesirable spillovers such as sudden capital flows that could undermine financial stability"

Financial inclusion has become the slogan for globally coordinated CBDC implementation. The bureaucrats at the IMF and associate organizations (such as the World Bank), just want to "help the un-banked" and allow money to flow where "geography is a barrier". The World Economic Forum's sub-agenda on Blockchain and Digital Assets is built around CBDCs, with Financial Inclusion as a key element in the marketing:

"Retail CBDCs can establish a more inclusive financial ecosystem… At the same time CBDCs should aim to help un-and-underbanked individuals create financial identities".

Nigerians are some of the first to get a taste of this financial inclusion. Its eNaira launched in October 2021 with the "minting" of 500 million naira (1.21 million dollars). Nigerians have been slow to adopt. From October to December 2021, only 35 thousand transactions took place on the platform. By October 2022, there had been a cumulative 700 thousand, in a country with 213 million people.

The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance have since tightened the constraints on everyday transactions. On December 6th the CBN announced new limits on cash withdrawals by individuals and businesses, in conjunction with the release of redesigned Naira notes. Two weeks later, CBN was compelled to raise these limits due to public protest. With the limits now in effect, we can plainly see that they are still heinous enough to induce thousands of Nigerians to protest in Lagos. Individuals can withdraw no more than N500,000 per week, which is a little more than $1,000.

Bloomberg, calling it a "Cash Crisis", reported on February 17th that protesting has turned violent. Demonstrations are complete with damaged ATMs, blocked roads, and burning tires. Along with the new limits, the government suspended use of higher denomination notes: businesses are no longer accepting N500 and N1,000 notes, and N200 notes will no longer be legal tender as of April 10th. N200 is only 43 cents, or 26 cents on the Lagos currency black market, which is the price that matters. Limits this low would make it nearly impossible to store one's savings in cash.

Photo From Bloomberg News, Photographer: Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

Bloomberg cites the "shortage of cash" as the prime motivator of protests. This is a mischaracterization, and we know this because public outcry began at the announcement of the withdrawal limits in December. Nigerians are among the heaviest users of cash in everyday transactions in the world (an estimated 63 percent of transactions). They are protesting over the government's encroachment on their right to trade using money, not over the delay of new notes.

In 2023, it would be idiotic to take an institution like the IMF or WEF at their word when they claim to prioritize the "financial inclusion" of people in low-and-middle-income countries. However, because so many people will, it is important to bring attention to the turmoil ignited by these CBDC policies. Christine Lagarde of the European Central Bank makes a point to say that "CBDC is not a replacement for cash" in almost every interview she gives on the subject. Both she and US Fed chair Jerome Powell assure everyone that their Central Banks are "considering" the rollout of CBDC, and have not yet decided. Both banks have opened “requests for public comment” in a lame attempt to appear as if CBDC is a response to public demand. What’s happening in Nigeria is but another piece of evidence that the global bureaucracy's priority is not financial inclusion, but the swift adoption of programmable money. For that, the IMF, World bank, WEF, Atlantic Council, and the rest, will accept any social cost.

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