Second Thoughts About Central Bank Digital Currencies

Arto Kovanen


Sustained decline in central banks’ monetary liabilities (reserves and currency in circulation), which the emergency of cryptocurrencies may have hastened, has been enabled by technological innovations that over time have allowed financial institutions and their customers to execute transactions and settle their debts without resorting to central bank currency. Policymakers are concerned about their ability to guarantee public’s access to government-backed currency. This has implications for central banks’ balance sheet and income position, which central bank digital currency might reconstitute. But the introduction of central bank digital currency (CBDC) comes with its own risks and could be disruptive for financial markets. We believe that retaining the option to have access to government-guaranteed currency is of utmost importance, despite the sporadic demand for physical currency in the modern society, but it could be addressed within existing institutional structures without the introduction of CBDC. However, policy authorities are right in seeking oversight and regulation for cryptocurrencies to address the destabilizing potential of cryptocurrencies for financial markets, and they should continue modernizing payment infrastructures to bring retail settlement systems at par with cryptocurrencies in terms of settlement speed but without associated liquidity and credit risks. These steps would preserve the status quo and allow private sector to continue innovating while limiting central banks’ footprint in the financial markets.

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Applied Economics and Finance    ISSN 2332-7294 (Print)   ISSN 2332-7308 (Online)

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