The Arbitrum blockchain, which recently launched its governance token ARB, has been rocked by controversy over a proposal to give the centralized Arbitrum Foundation control of 750 million ARB tokens, valued at almost $1 billion. The tokens would be used to fund a “special grants” program designed to foster growth on Arbitrum, the Ethereum layer 2 solution. However, the proposal, AIP-1, has sparked opposition because it would not allow ARB holders to have any say in how the Arbitrum Foundation allocates the funds.
The centralized Arbitrum Foundation would not need to subject its grant allocations to “full on-chain governance”, the process by which ARB holders shape the blockchain and its ecosystem, further fueling concerns about the lack of community involvement. This approach stands in contrast to other aspects of AIP-1 that emphasize the importance of token holders in governing Arbitrum.
Although the proposal is still in the preliminary stage and must go through a formal forum, some community members are already worried about the consequences of giving the Arbitrum Foundation complete control over such a large sum. “We’re talking about $1 billion to start,” said an Arbitrum community member who wished to remain anonymous. “Having seen other governance examples where large treasuries were drained for community pet projects, this is pretty concerning.”
Lemma Ltd, the organization that submitted the proposal, has not yet commented on the situation. The “special grants” program aims to fast-track grants proposals and prevent them from clogging up the governance channels. It would also alleviate “voter fatigue,” according to the proposal. However, community members who spoke to CoinDesk were not convinced by this argument, pointing out that governance is difficult but that due process should not be circumvented.
The situation highlights the importance of community involvement in blockchain governance, particularly when large sums of money are at stake. The lack of transparency and potential for abuse by centralized entities could undermine the trust that users have in the blockchain and its ecosystem. As such, it is critical that blockchain projects find ways to ensure that token holders have a meaningful voice in governance decisions.