Did efforts at a cashless economy start in 2009 or 2012? Bill Gates says so. In another sensational post, the German commentator Norbert Häring alleges that the war on cash is driven by US security agencies and commercial interests.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates is one of the richest and most influential people on earth. He announced in 2015 that his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was aiming at achieving full digitalization of the payment systems of India and other populous developing countries by 2018. This “financial inclusion” program for India dates back to well before Narendra Modi came to power. It was elevated to official US policy by Executive Order in 2012, because the President saw vital US security interests are at stake.
Speaking for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the “Financial Inclusion Forum” in Washington, organized by the Treasury Department and USAID on December 1, 2015, Bill Gates said (min 17):
“Full digitalization of the economy may happen in developing countries faster than anywhere else. It is certainly our goal to make it happen in the next three years in the large developing countries. We have very significant efforts in Nigeria, Pakistan and India, (and) a dozen other countries, where we work with the central banks to make sure that the right kind of transaction switch is available…(min 20)…We worked directly with the central bank there (India) over the last three years and they created a new type of authorization called the payments bank, and those customers will be able to use their mobile phones to perform basic financial transactions. And 11 entities applied, including all the mobile phone providers, and were granted that payment bank status.”
“Financial Inclusion” was defined by PayPal-CEO Dan Schulman in an interview during the forum as:
“Financial Inclusion is a buzz word for bringing people into the system.”
The cooperation of the Gates foundation and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is and has been a very tight one. Nachiket Mor, a “Yale World Fellow”, is head of the Gates Foundation India. He is also a board member of the RBI, with responsibility for financial supervision. He chaired the RBI Committee on the Licensing of Payment Banks and a financial inclusion committee that the RBI convened in 2013.
+++Note: Since this text puts forward a conspiracy theory, I want to let the actors and their documents speak for themselves as much as possible. Where my own judgement and additional information figure in significantly, as in the following lines, it will be in italics and clearly marked. If you are skeptical, you may want to jump over those sections in italics in a first round, to not be unduly influenced in your interpretation of the quotes from the main actors and their documents.
If the cooperation of Gates Foundation and RBI had been ongoing already for three years in early December 2015, this implies a start in late 2012 or early 2013. This would be more than a year before Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India. It would also have been almost two years, before Modi visited Barack Obama, told him about his plans to do something for financial inclusion and receive the happy message that the US was willing to help. It would have started three years before the partnership of USAID and the Indian Finance Ministry on financial inclusion was officially announced at that same forum and five years before the RBI and Narendra Modi performed the great and brutal experiment of starving the whole of India of cash for months. All this time, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was quietly working closely and directly with the RBI towards Gates’ declared goal of making the Indian payment system totally cashless by the end of 2018. He did so with backing and involvement of the US-government and with help of allies such as the World Economic Forum.+++
Gates’ quotes stood in a context where he stressed that a government’s assistance to the poor and needy should not be delivered by the “incredibly inefficient” method of providing cash or grain to the recipient. “Digitalization helps targeting”, he said, if payments are done via mobile banking. He praised Mexico (min 18), whose Finance Minister, Luis Videgaray Caso, was present, announcing:
“We are going to use government income support programs as financial inclusion tools”,
as tools to bring everybody into the system. The idea endorsed by Gates and the financial inclusion “community” at the forum was to steer poor people into participating in the digital payment system by making it a condition for receiving any or certain forms of support.
A Global ID to Track and Serve Everybody
Gates praised his Mexican co-panelist:
“Mexico has been a pioneer in this (government aid via mobile phone based payment) but now we are moving this into even lower income countries.”
He stressed, how useful a standardized – ideally globally standardized – biometric and digital identification system would be, as it would make it easy for payment providers and governments to identify their (prospective) customers. He told his excited audience how he has been working on that (min 21):
“It is a wonderful thing to go in and create a broad identification system. Again India is an interesting example of this. There, the Aadhaar system, which is a 12-digit-identification that is correlated to biometric measures, is becoming pervasive throughout the country. This will be the foundation for how we bring that switch to every mobile phone in India. We are expecting to use these IDs, so that when you show up for any government service, say you walk into a primary health clinic, we will be able to use this ID to bring up your health record very quickly. If you move from one part of the country to another, you will be well tracked and served.”
Gates mentioned that such a unified biometric ID is also being developed in Pakistan and Africa, presumably with the help of the Gates Foundation, which is working closely with the central banks of Pakistan and Nigeria, Unified IDs of the same type introduced in three of the most populous countries of the world should take the Gates Foundation quite a big step closer his dream of a globally unified biometric ID to “track and serve” everybody on earth…