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专栏传统金融的互联网化区块链国际资讯

区块链能否拯救印度农作物保险业?

专栏传统金融的互联网化区块链国际资讯

区块链能否拯救印度农作物保险业?

在上周举行的新加坡金融科技节上,印度总理Narendra Modi发表了一篇以普惠金融为核心的重要讲话。在讲话中,他谈到包括Aadhaar在内的一些成就,在过去的四年里,拥有银行账户的印度人口比例从50%上升到几乎普及。

Modi通过Aadhaar在这个农业人口占比为70%的国家取得了里程碑式的成就,作出了有意义的尝试。然而,当这个拥有13亿人口的国家发生自然灾害时,无论领导者多么雄心勃勃、多么敬业,能做的也只有这些。

本月早些时候,笔者在印度的家乡以及邻近的州受到了气旋风暴Gaja的袭击。在本地语言中Gaja的意思是大象。在笔者家乡所在地Cauvery河三角洲地区,土壤最肥沃,受灾最严重。伤亡33人,重新安置约7.5万人外,当地农民受灾严重。

因为水稻是水密集型作物,所以三角洲地区的许多农民已经从种植水稻转向种植椰子。这种农业策略让农民深受其害,因为椰子树长成需要10-15年,风暴让他们十年的努力付之东流--因为没有投保。

那么莫迪政府在农作物保险方面做了什么?

2016年1月,总理Narendra Modi启动了改良的农作物保险计划,这是政府为农民提供的旗舰计划,即Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY)。

该保险是如何运作的?

拥有土地面积不足两公顷的农民可获得保费补贴。保险范围包括以下两个方面:

  1. 产量保护,保护农民免受歉收侵害。
  2. 天气相关保险,涵盖灾害和其他天气反常行为。

政府会根据各州农业部门的作物采收试验计算赔偿金额,当季产量低于与过去5年的平均产量时就可以得到赔偿。但是实质上,这一过程其实是一个手动过程。

对于需要贷款的农民来说,保险是强制性的。对于其他农民来说,则不是强制性。

在那之后农作物保险业发生了什么变化?

  1. 覆盖的农民数量增加了0.42%。
  2. 从农民那里收取的保费增加了350%
  3. 支付的赔款略有增加。但是,索赔花费大量时间对农民造成了伤害。

第一点和第二点清楚地显示了钱的去向:以农民的牺牲为代价,保险公司笑到了最后。

此外,如果一个季节歉收,下一季农民没能及时获得索赔,他们就没有钱购买种子。因此,发放赔付款的时机至关重要。

当前流程还存在若干其他问题,包括缺乏透明度、产量阈值出错、农民保险意识差、标准和文件太复杂等。

将来我们可以做些什么?

区块链似乎给了我们提供一个巧妙的解决方案。在印度,区块链可以这样发挥作用。

  1. 每个农民都有Aadhaar,因此可以使用生物识别。
  2. 当农民在银行开设账户时,强制投保。
  3. 解释标准、付款时间表并商定好阈值及变化方式。
  4. 创建简单的数据驱动智能合约,列出触发索赔的标准,无需农民自己索赔。
  5. 从卫星数据中获取有关天气和土壤湿度的信息。
  6. 发生自然灾害时,通过自动执行的合同,自动启动索赔。
  7. 最后,对农作物保险公司及其利润率设置严格的指导方针。

仍然需要在每个季节后,由当地政府决定州/农作物产量水平阈值数据,但这一数据外,大多数其他信息都可以自动化。顾客(农民)在整个过程中应畅通无阻。

农民不需要了解保险,他们只需要知道发生灾难时可以得到保护和照顾。区块链技术可以在这一过程中帮助农民建立信任。

一旦对系统恢复了信心,参加该计划的农民数量将自动增加。

新加坡金融科技节期间,Modi先生提及区块链是风险投资领域的热门趋势。如果他拥有自己的财务政策顾问,且能力达到撰写演讲稿的公关团队的一半,这个国家功能失调的金融服务应该很快就会有起色。

At the Singapore Fintech Festival last week, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, delivered an amazing key note speech with Financial Inclusion at its core. During the speech he touched upon several of his achievements, including Aadhaar. In the last 4 years, he claimed the banked population in India has gone up from 50% to almost most of the country.

I am a big fan of Modi. He has managed to achieve some major milestones with Aadhaar and meaningful steps for a country where 70% of its population still earns from agriculture. However, in times of natural disasters, in a country dealing with 1.3 Billion people, one ambitious and dedicated leader can only do so much.

Earlier this month, my home state in India, and some of the neighbouring states were hit badly by a storm named Gaja. Gaja in the regional tongue refers to Elephant. In my state, the most hit districts were the most fertile parts, that are called the delta region (of the river Cauvery). On top of human casualties (33) and about 75,000 being relocated, the storm hurt farmers massively.

Many farmers in the delta region had moved from cultivating paddy to coconuts as paddy is considered water intensive. This farming tactic has heavily hurt them, as coconut trees took 10-15 years to grow, and the damage caused by the storm was to their decade of hard work – which was not insured.

I come from that part of the world, and had the privilege of going to school and University with many, whose parents were farmers. One of them sent me texts, post the storm, this is the summary.

I understand, this is not a weather news channel – so back to crop insurance and Blockchain.

So what has been done by the Modi government for Crop insurance?

In January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a revamped crop insurance scheme, his government’s flagship scheme for farmers, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

How does the insurance work?

The premium is subsidized for farmers who own less than two hectares of land. Insurance coverage is for two aspects,

  1. Yield protection, which protects the farmer from a lower yield
  2. Weather linked insurance that covers for disasters and other weather irregularities

The claim is calculated on the basis of crop cutting experiments carried out by agricultural departments of respective states. Any shortfall in yield compared to past 5 years average yield is compensated. In essence – a very manual process.

The insurance is mandatory for farmers who take loan for their needs. For the rest of the farmers it is not.

What has happened to the Crop insurance industry since then?

These were the key findings,

  1. Number of farmers covered has increased by 0.42%.
  2. Premiums collected from farmers has gone up by 350%
  3. Claims paid out have increased marginally. But time taken to pay claims is already hurting farmers.

Points one and two clearly highlight where the monies are going – insurance providers are having the last laugh – at the cost of the farmers.

Also, If one season fails, and farmers didn’t get their claim money in time for the next season, they don’t have funds to buy seeds for the next season. So timing of the release of claim money is critical.

There are several other issues with the current process that include lack of transparency, errors in setting yield thresholds, poor awareness amongst farmers, complex criteria and documentation.

What could we do in future?

Well, we seem to have got a silver bullet in Blockchain. I have written about how Blockchain could help crop insurance before, but will revisit some of those points again. In an Indian context, this is how I see it working.

  1. Every farmer has an Aadhaar, so use the biometric identification.
  2. When a farmer opens a bank account, make it compulsory to get them on an insurance
  3. Explain the criteria, payment schedule and agree on thresholds and how they could change.
  4. Create a simple data driven smart contract to list the criteria that would trigger a claim – without the farmer having to claim.
  5. Source the required information on weather and soil dampness from satellite data
  6. When there is a natural calamity, automatically trigger the claim, in near real time, using self executing contracts.
  7. Last but not the least – have strict guidelines for crop insurance firms and their profit margins.

This would still need state/crop level data on yield thresholds, which is apparently decided by the local authorities post every season. But apart from that data point, most other information can be automated. The customer (the farmer) should have a frictionless experience.

They don’t have to understand insurance, they just need to know they are protected and taken care of when disaster strikes. Blockchain can create that trust in the process.

Once the confidence in the system comes back, number of farmers enrolling for the scheme will automatically go up.

During the Singapore Fintech festival, Mr.Modi mentioned how Blockchain was a hot trend amidst VCs. If he had advisors for his financial policies, who were half as good as his PR team that wrote his speeches, the nation should soon see some relief from its dysfunctional financial services.

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