Preconditions for a general-purpose central bank digital currency

WASHINGTON —Money is a social and legal construct underpinned by trust. Conceptions of money have evolved and money has taken many forms over the years. In North America, pre-colonial trade was often conducted in wampum, corn, and fur pelts.

Today, for the United States, whatever specific objectives may arise for a central bank digital currency (CBDC), they should be consistent with the Federal Reserve’s longstanding objectives of the safety and efficiency of the nation’s payments system, as well as monetary and financial stability. A CBDC arrangement must be in keeping with these objectives, which have guided the central bank since its establishment in 1913.

A foundational element for introducing a CBDC is understanding its purpose: What can a CBDC be used for, how it can be used, and what potential value does it provide? A recent Bank for International Settlements report highlighted a number of potential benefits for a CBDC. These include enhancing payment system resiliency, increasing payments diversity, encouraging financial inclusion, and improving cross-border payments. Research papers and other reports have referenced the potential for a CBDC to support monetary policy.  It is important to consider that a CBDC that is designed to support monetary policy transmission or economic stimulus payments, for example, would be quite different than a CBDC that is designed to be an alternative to cash.  Without clear objectives, it would be difficult to establish business requirements for a CBDC.

Primary motivations for CBDC research and experimentation

Sources: This map was compiled using data from the March 2020 BIS Quarterly Review and a 2020 working paper from the IMF, “A survey of research on retail central bank digital currency,” and supplemented through additional secondary research. CBDC activity tracking sites from organizations such as the Atlantic Council were used. Motivations were broadly determined by the authors using the public statements attributed to sources within the central banks themselves or in some cases other news sources.

Central bank interest in CBDC research and experimentation varies significantly. However, these interests generally fall into two broad categories. One set of central banks is primarily looking to address present-day challenges, while for others it is exploring future capabilities. For some jurisdictions, a CBDC is intended to address a specific problem — inefficient payment systems, weak banking infrastructure, or declining cash use — or to promote national policy goals, such as supporting payments inclusion and protecting monetary sovereignty.

For many advanced economies, the primary motivations are centered on potential payments innovation and general preparedness for a potential future state. highlights some of the central banks’ primary motivations.

Source and Map: Federal Reserve by Jess Cheng, Angela N Lawson, and Paul Wong. Select here to visit their website for this full article.

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