Archive for January 3rd, 2020

Transformative Power of Cricket in India: Its potential and limits (Remembering Baloo Palwankar..)

January 3, 2020

Prashant Kidambi has written a book – Cricket Country  – which chronicles first tour by a representative Indian side to the British Isles, in 1911.

Priyansh, a doctoral student at Univ of Toronto reviews the book in The India Forum:

Prashant Kidambi’s Cricket Country has a conversation with this question of caste, among other things, and helps us to think in productive ways.

As a work of history, Cricket Country seeks to question the accepted narrative about cricket in India before Test status became a reality in 1932. The years before then are generally described as a period of antique curiosities when the princely states, in their desire to mirror the colonial royalty, took to cricket as a pastime. However, as Kidambi notes, cricket also turned out to be a site for political negotiations among religious communities, and its popularity spread deep and wide.

Many histories animate Cricket Country. From the life story of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala—the de facto captain on the tour— to the situating of the Indian tour within an English summer that was in the throes of cultural and political ferment, Kidambi draws disparate threads together. But it is his account of the Palwankars, four Dalit brothers (Baloo, Shivram, Vithal and Ganpat) who excelled at cricket and hockey alike that evokes the popular fascination with cricket and recovers “the small voice of history”3. The story of the lives of the Palwankar brothers, two of whom (Baloo and Shivram) made the team for the 1911 tour, is a stirring highlight of Cricket Country.

Palwankar Baloo and his brothers were afforded long overdue prominence in an English-language work of history by Ramachandra Guha in his much-celebrated A Corner of a Foreign Field. Yet the name of Baloo and his riveting career in cricket remains consigned to the backburner of Indian cricket memory. It is an account that is barely invoked in the popular imagination; rather it remains a trivial concern.

The story of the Palwankars is relevant as it allows us a glimpse into the history of Dalits in Indian cricket. When set against the remarkably low presence of Dalits in organised men’s cricket in independent India, it is worth noting that the historic tour over a century ago had two cricketers from the Chambhar (Chamar) community: Baloo and Shivram. The duo’s brother Vithal could have been a part of the tour as well, but he was unlucky to miss out as communal quotas were strictly enforced to keep all parties happy, namely, the Parsis, the Hindus, and the Muslims.

As Kidambi describes it, the tour was the result of a historic compromise that was reached following past failures to undertake a tour to the colonial metropole. But it is the ever-shifting compromise with the status of Baloo within the Hindu cricketing fraternity that suggests why we still have very few Dalit men in organised cricket. In fact, this may be the final frontier for what is the most popular game for the Indian masses. Post-Independence, it has not been unusual to see cricketers from different religious dimensions. But caste lines remain firmly entrenched.

Baloo’s inclusion, as noted by Kidambi, was motivated by a collective self-interest of the Hindus. Such were his exploits with left-arm spin bowling that the desire for communal supremacy in the Bombay Quadrangular4 ensured his selection. Anecdotes and accounts about Baloo’s talent travelled far and wide, helped in no small measure by his success on the 1911 tour where he was the leading wicket-taker. Nor was he a mug with the bat, playing a few crucial knocks over the course of the English summer.

Baloo’s indefatigable displays were a highlight in a side that had been considerably affected by late withdrawals of key figures and riven with disagreements. The Parsis and the Brahmins experienced continuing friction that had its roots in animosity bred on the cricket fields of Bombay. The tension was borne out particularly in the matter of dietary preferences. As recalled in Cricket Country, one of the Parsi cricketers explained the fragile fitness of a Brahmin cricketer by asserting, “He is a vegetarian and in Great Britain meat must be eaten if one is to keep fit.” What the Parsis thought of Baloo, beyond his cricketing abilites, is unknown.

Much more in the review…

Central Bank of Bahamas to issue digital currency in 2020

January 3, 2020

Attention is usually on central banks of big economies but some of the smaller ones are doing interesting things. Lithuania just introduced a collecter digital coin based on blockchain which is the first such digital currency.

I had blogged about how Bahamas is planning a digital currency under the project name Sanddollar.  The project has gained pace and the central bank is on course to issue digital Bahama Dollar in 2020:

The Central Bank will introduce a digital version of the Bahamian dollar, starting with a pilot phase in Exuma in December 2019, and extending in the first half of 2020 to Abaco. This initiative has acquired the name Project Sand Dollar, with the sand dollar also being the name assigned to the proposed central bank digital currency (CBDC). This is a continuation of the Bahamian Payments System Modernization Initiative (PSMI), which began in the early 2000s.

The Bahamian PSMI targets improved outcomes for financial inclusion and access, making the domestic payments system more efficient and non-discriminatory in access to financial services.

Although average measures of financial development and access in The Bahamas are high by international standards, pockets of the population are excluded because of the remoteness of some communities outside of the cost effective reach of physical banking services. More onerous customer due diligence standards for AML/CFT international tax compliance have also resulted in forms of exclusion, including more recent responses to tighter “know your customer” (KYC) systems introduced to preserve international correspondent banking relationships. As recent policy and regulatory reforms have begun to tackle these barriers, the Central Bank is intent on accelerating payments system reform, admitting new categories of financial services providers and using the digital payments infrastructure to make the supply of traditional banking services accessible to all segments of the population.

Recent surveys document that as part of a financial literacy campaign, there is room to improve both knowledge and awareness of financial products and responsible financial behavior. Opportunities also exist to reduce transaction costs for businesses and consumers. Feedback from Exuma, show a high penetration of mobile phone usage, and a likelihood that a higher share of the population would be willing to use digital financial services including electronic payments. The public though will need more assurances around the safety of conducting online transactions. The digital currency design and public education will tackle these issues.

Most of the benefits of introducing a digital currency are still unquantifiable. However, they include a potential suppression of economic costs associated with cash usage, and benefits to the Government from improved expenditure and tax administration systems. It is expected that the Government, as participant and user, would be a strong promoter of digital payments adoption, alongside non-bank payment services providers as the initial lead intermediaries in this space.

As the pilot progresses in Exuma, the Central Bank will simultaneously promote the development of new regulations for the digital currency, and strengthen consumer protection, especially around data protection standards. The Bank will also advance reforms to permit direct participation of non-banks in the domestic payments system. Early passage of the new Central Bank of The Bahamas Bill will support the creation of some regulations, while additional reforms will be possible under the existing Payment Systems Act.


Central Bank of Philippines tries unconventional ways to central banking under a new governor

January 3, 2020

There have been articles on how RBI under Mr Shaktikanta Das (completed 1 year the central bank in Dec-2019) is using unconventional policies .

Similar article on Central Bank of Philippines whose new Governor Benjamin E. Diokno is going the unconventional way as well:

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has a lot more focus thinking of unconventional ways to central banking since Benjamin E. Diokno – a name more familiar in the exercise of public or government budgeting – took over the helm as BSP’s fifth governor in 2019.

Dokno has said many times that under his watch, the BSP will be “closer to (the) people)” since the beneficiary of a successful BSP doing its mandate of promoting price and financial stability, as manifested in a low and stable inflation and financial services that are accessible to the public, are the Filipino consumers.

So far, so good. Inflation is expected to settle at 2.4 percent in 2019 and a stable 2.9 percent for 2020 and 2021, firmly in the middle ground of the two-four percent target until 2022. The 2.4 percent forecast for 2019 is more than half of what was reported at the end of 2018 of 5.2 percent.

As for further bringing BSP as an institution working for Filipinos, the BSP has set into motion reforms and regulatory changes that will make this happen sooner than planned. It continued to pursue the strengthening of the payments system through policies that will encourage financial technology solutions.


Unconventional has become the new conventional…

Furor over the Fed : Presidential Tweets and Central Bank Independence

January 3, 2020

Trump using Twitter to criticise Federal Reserve was quite something to witness in 2019. I blogged on the topic earlier where a NBER paper showed that Trump attack transmitted to lower interest rates.

Antoine Camous and Dmitry Matveev of Bank of Canada in this paper have similar findings as the NBER paper:

We illustrate how market data can be informative about the interactions between monetary and fiscal policy. Federal funds futures are private contracts that reflect investor’s expectations about monetary policy decisions. By relating price movements of these contracts with President Trump’s tweets on monetary policy, we explore how markets have perceived presidential attempts to influence monetary policy decisions. Overall, our results indicate markets expected the Federal Reserve to adjust monetary policy in the direction suggested by President Trump.

Financial markets reacted to President Trump’s tweets by assigning a higher probability of a policy rate cut in the future. We find that market adjustments on the FOMC decision days correct for expectations of larger interest rate cuts, suggesting that the Fed did not surrender to political pressure, at least not as much as financial market participants anticipated.

Legal Issues regarding Central Bank Digital Currency: Bank of Japan edition

January 3, 2020

Bank of Japan formed a Study Group on Legal Issues regarding Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Here is a summary of the report of the study group:

Based on four stylized models of CBDC issuance, the Report discusses what legal issues would arise within the Japanese legal framework if the Bank of Japan were to issue its own CBDC.

The Report finds a wide range of issues to be addressed. These include, among others, whether or not CBDC can be regarded as legal tender; what would happen in the case of counterfeit or duplication under current private law; whether or not issuance of CBDC is consistent with the purposes of the Bank as currently specified by the Bank of Japan Act; and whether the Bank can restrict the use of CBDC by certain individuals. The Report also discusses the legal issues related to the acquisition of information with respect to Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CFT) regulations; protecting personal information; and the penalties for counterfeiting/duplicating CBDC as Crimes of Counterfeiting of Currency under current criminal law.

The four models are shown nicely using flow of funds from one entity to another: (more…)

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