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What is the purpose of central bank digital currency?

A 5 Yuan banknote issued by the Central Bank of China in the Republican era.

What is the purpose of central bank digital currency? Technology, money and payment systems have been interlinked from the earliest days of human civilization. However, of late technology has reshaped money and payment systems to an extent and speed never before seen.

Milestones include the establishment of M-Pesa in Kenya in 2007 (creating mobile money systems), Bitcoin in 2009 (triggering in time the explosive growth in distributed ledger technology and blockchain), the announcement of Libra in 2019 (triggering a fundamental rethinking of the potential impact of technology on global monetary affairs), and the announcement of China’s central bank digital currency – the e-CNY– referred to here as Digital Yuan (marking the first large scale trials by a major economy of a sovereign digital currency).

The COVID-19 pandemic and crisis of 2020 has spurred electronic payments in ways never before seen.

In our paper, we ask the question: In the context of the crisis and beyond, what role can technology play in improving the effectiveness of money and payment systems around the world?

We analyse the impact of distributed ledger technologies and blockchain on monetary and payment systems and consider the policy issues and choices associated with cryptocurrencies, stable coins and sovereign (central bank) digital currencies. We examine how the catalysts reshaping monetary and payment systems around the world – Bitcoin, Libra, China’s e-CNY, and COVID-19 – challenge regulators and give rise to different levels of disruption.

While the thousands of Bitcoin progenies were able to be ignored, safely, by regulators, Facebook’s proposed Libra, a global stablecoin, brought an immediate and potent response. This proposal by the private sector to move into the traditional preserve of sovereigns – the minting of currency – was always likely to provoke a roll-out of sovereign digital currencies by central banks. China has moved first, among major economies, with its Digital Yuan – an initiative that may well trigger a chain reaction of central bank digital currency issuance across the globe.

In contrast, in the COVID-19 crisis, we argue most central banks should focus not on rolling out novel new forms of blockchain-based money but rather on transforming their payment systems:

This is where the real benefits will lie both in the crisis and beyond. Looking forward, neither the extreme private nor public model is likely to prevail.

In conclusion, rather, we expect the reshaping of domestic money and payment systems to involve public central banks cooperating with (new and old) private entities which together will provide the potential to build better monetary and payment systems at the domestic and international level. Lastly, under this model, for the first time in history, technology will enable the merger of the monetary and payment systems.

After Libra, Digital Yuan and COVID-19: Central Bank Digital Currencies and the New World of Money and Payment Systems by Anton N. Didenko, Dirk A. Zetzsche, Douglas W. Arner, Ross P. Buckley :: SSRN

Anton N. Didenko, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law

Dirk A. Zetzsche, Universite du Luxembourg – Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance; Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf – Center for Business & Corporate Law (CBC); European Banking Institute

Douglas W. Arner, The University of Hong Kong – Faculty of Law; University of Hong Kong

Ross P. Buckley, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law

(9) SSRN’s #1 Researcher Ross Buckley of KPMG Law in addition, Professor at University of New South Wales on FinTech Evolution

What is the purpose of central bank digital currency?