With the European Central Bank expressing its intention to evaluate a Central Bank issued Digital Currency (CBDC) for the Euro Zone, it is apparent that regulators can no longer shrug aside digital currencies as a passing fad, or look upon them with suspicion.
ECB President Christine Lagarde’s statement that the Bank may be ready to launch a digital currency in two to four years, viewed along with the public consultation on CBDC initiated by the ECB, suggests that the EU is serious about launching an official digital currency to boost digital payments. China may, however, be the first in this race; work on a CBDC has already begun and the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) is currently being pilot tested in many Chinese cities.
The need for a digital currency arises from two main factors: marginalising the use of ‘cryptocurrency’ by anonymous non-State actors, often for nefarious ends; and moving to cashless transactions to curb tax evasion. Indian regulators are yet to start work on developing a government-backed digital currency, though there were reports of the RBI exploring its feasibility around three years back. Other countries including the US and the UK are also treading cautiously, awaiting thorough due diligence before venturing into this space.