July 5, 2023: Do you know that the money in your bank account or in your e-wallet could someday vanish in one second? Do you know that in the future, your money can be programmed to become zero? Imagine going to sleep with Rs 5 lakh in your bank account. When you wake up, you find just Rs 2 lakh in your account. Rs 3 lakh have simply ‘expired’ or died. Without anybody hacking into your account. Without any demonetisation. It sounds impossible? If you think you have full control over the money in the bank, that could change someday, according to a shocking World Bank article.
Expiring money – beyond CBDCs
You must have heard about a new kind of government money called CBDCs or Central Bank Digital Currencies. And you have already faced the impact of a sudden note ban. Now, here’s a new development concerning your money that goes way beyond all this. It’s about a concept called expiring money or programmable money.
Biagio Bossone and Ahmed Faragallah are two names nobody has heard of. They are financial advisers. Together, they wrote an article on the blog section of the World Bank website. The article will give you goosebumps and sleepless nights. The article is titled ‘Expiring Money’. The two writers have given the readers a vivid description of the proposed system of expiring money. The article speculates that this new economic system may come into force in the future. If that happens, what it will do is, it will take away the control that you now have over your own money in the bank and your e-wallet.
So, what exactly is expiring money or programmable money? Let’s understand it in simple words. Right now, your money has a static face value. Say, you have Rs 5 lakh in your bank account and Rs 10,000 in your e-wallet. If you don’t spend that money for years, they will remain like that. The only change will be, they will have lesser purchasing power later on because of inflation in the market.
But in a system of programmable money, the money in your bank will be digitally programmed by the authorities to have a life of their own. It means, the face value of your money itself can change if the government doesn’t agree with you, or if you are seen to misbehave. How does that work?
How programmable money works
Imagine your country is going through a deep economic depression. Your government and your banks will want you to quickly spend all your Rs 5 lakh. Why? Because they feel the economy will revive if you and many others like you spend money instead of saving it. Therefore, they can put in place a new kind of punishment or disincentive if you don’t want to spend your money. So, the authorities can digitally ‘program’ your money to diminish in value or disappear completely if you decide not to spend it. How will this programming system work?
They will first notify you that you must spend your Rs 5 lakh within the next two months. Basically, you have to release your saved-up money in the marketplace. How you spend it is your headache. You can buy things, pay for services, or make an investment. Whichever way, you must release your money within 60 days. If you cross the deadline without spending the money, then its value will be officially reduced to zero. Your account balance will become nil. This is the proposed programming process. So, authorities can simply program your money to expire or die at will. That’s why it is also called expiring money.
But there’s no need for you to panic right now. This new system is not coming soon. There is no such indication, thankfully. It is only being discussed in elite circles as a proposed idea. The India government and other countries have no plans to launch programmable money yet. As of now, they are only keen on trying out CBDCs, demonetisation, and digital payments. Let’s hope the new plan doesn’t come to life.
World Bank’s agenda?
But this is indeed a worrying development. If the World Bank is publishing the concept of expiring money, it means powerful people want the public to know about it. About a future where your money can be programmed to turn against you. A future where your money will have a mind of its own. If you don’t agree with your country’s policies or your bank’s orders, your money can simply vanish – and you can’t fight against it legally. It will be the accepted system.
Let’s look at the details of what Bossone and Faragallah have written in the World Bank blog post. They are saying, the purpose of expiring money is to use it as a monetary policy tool. Programmability can help control your decision to spend or save your money. For governments, it will be an effective way to stimulate consumption. The authors are saying, governments can bring in this feature during emergencies and disasters, like pandemics, when the general tendency to spend money reduces.
The World Bank article also says, programmability can force you to transfer your money only to specific types of users. You could be asked to spend money only on specific types of goods and services. That means certain types of people can be blacklisted from receiving your money, if the authorities don’t like them. So, even the nature of your transactions can be controlled.
IoT payments and expiring money
The authors have written that programmable money can handle IoT payments. IoT means Internet-of-Things. Smart machines can place orders and make payments on their own. For example, your internet-enabled fridge, called a smart fridge, can order processed milk and pay on its own from a designated vendor when the stock is running low. Another example: your smart printer can place a prepaid order on Amazon for an ink refill if it runs low.
This is what the World Bank article says in one paragraph: “In the case of expiring money, the penalty for holding it would be radical. The money would keep its full value for a predetermined interval, and would decline in value from then onwards. No holder of money would have reasons to hold it beyond expiration – and would thus raise aggregate demand in the market.”
The World Bank article tries to convey the idea as a public convenience. Not as a human rights issue. In reality, such a system can give our rulers total control over our money. They are trying to forcefully create a cashless society. In this atmosphere, the concept of expiring money is dangerous. It is something straight from George Orwell’s 1984. Basically, your individuality will be at stake. How you save, how you spend, what you spend on, who you send money to – this new system can dictate that, not just track it. The proposed money system will force you to change your behaviour. You will obey more and protest less.
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