In a bid to foster efficient and fairer international transactions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is actively developing a global platform for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), Reuters reported.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva emphasized the need for interoperability between countries during a conference attended by African central banks in Rabat, Morocco, on Monday. Unlike decentralized cryptocurrencies, CBDCs are digital currencies controlled by central banks.
Georgieva stated that CBDCs should transcend national boundaries and not remain fragmented propositions within individual countries.
To achieve this, she said that the IMF has been working towards a common regulatory framework that will enable seamless global interoperability for CBDCs. Failure to establish such a platform could create a void that cryptocurrencies will likely fill, she added.
Backing the ‘official’ digital currency
Georgieva highlighted that 114 central banks worldwide are already exploring CBDCs, with approximately 10 having made substantial progress in their implementation.
She also stressed that the potential of CBDCs would be underutilized if they were solely developed for domestic use. By connecting countries and facilitating cross-border transactions, CBDCs could enhance financial inclusion and reduce the costs of remittances. Currently, the average cost of money transfers amounts to 6.3 per cent, equivalent to $44 billion annually.
Georgieva further emphasized the importance of backing CBDCs with assets. While acknowledging the investment potential of cryptocurrencies backed by assets, she cautioned against speculative investments in cryptocurrencies lacking such support.
Tracking the global rise of CBDC
The rise in CBDC exploration is evident as per US-based think tank Atlantic Council, with 114 countries—representing over 95 percent of global GDP—actively considering or advancing CBDC projects. In contrast, in May 2020, only 35 countries were contemplating CBDCs. Presently, 60 countries are in an advanced exploration phase, including development, pilot testing, or launch.
Eleven nations have already fully launched their CBDCs, with China’s pilot project reaching approximately 260 million people and expanding across the country in 2023. The most recent addition to the list is Jamaica, which introduced its own CBDC called JAM-DEX.
The imposition of financial sanctions on Russia has spurred countries to seek alternative payment systems that circumvent the dominance of the U.S. dollar. As a result, there are currently nine cross-border wholesale CBDC tests and seven cross-border retail projects, almost double the number compared to the previous year.
Throughout 2023, more than 20 countries are expected to take significant steps towards piloting their CBDCs. Australia, Thailand, Brazil, India, South Korea, and Russia intend to commence or continue pilot testing next year. Additionally, the European Central Bank (ECB) is likely to initiate its CBDC pilot in the near future.
As of December 2022, all G7 economies have transitioned from research to the development stage of CBDCs. Notably, the New York Federal Reserve’s wholesale CBDC experiment, Project Cedar, propelled the United States into the development phase.
Among the G20 countries, 18 have reached the advanced stage of CBDC development, with seven already in the pilot phase. Almost every G20 nation has made substantial progress and allocated significant resources to CBDC projects in the past six months.
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