The pandemic has taught us several lessons. On the one hand, it was about the natural dynamism and wide acceptance of new technologies, while on the other hand, we have to admit, it was about the associated restrictions as well as the concern (especially in the early stages of the pandemic) about the transmission of the virus through money.
The restrictions imposed and the fear felt more or less acutely led to an increase of digital payments, in favor of cash payments. Some central banks have even introduced procedures to quarantine or sterilize money precisely to assure the population that the money is safe to use. Other central banks have encouraged and urged the population to resort to digital payments and reduce cash payments as much as possible.
Of course, in this situation we also have to consider the fact that often digital payments do not completely eliminate the risk of contamination, but still imply that in some cases, the payer comes into contact with the terminal of the seller to validate the payment. Also, we cannot ignore consumers who do not have a bank account and therefore can only make cash payments, the promotion of digital payments at the expense of those involving cash thus raising a problem of inclusion. Beyond the different approaches and points of view, the conclusion we can state today, two years into the pandemic, is that the pandemic played an active role in accelerating the transition to digital payments on a large scale.
It is very true that the discussion must be nuanced, that the digital transformation does not imply an effective and immediate abandonment of money in its classical form and that it is possible to even witness a resistance to change, an opposition to the widespread adoption of digital payments by some categories of population. What is worth noting, however, is the fact that there is more and more discussion in this context about digital currencies issued by central banks (central bank digital currency – CBDC).
Thus, we are discussing a digital currency, which without having a physical, tangible existence is issued by a central bank, is guaranteed and backed by the trust of the central bank. It is in fact the digital alter ego of a fiat currency and carries the properties and advantages of the fiat currency, while adding the privileges that accompany the digital format, such as the decrease in transaction costs, the increase in transaction speed, but also the much- sought advantage of the efficiency of international transfers.
Carefully designed, digital currencies issued by central banks can provide greater security to payment systems and lower operating costs. Electronic currency is nothing more than a „prepaid” currency, the unit of value created and stored electronically being exactly the amount of fiat currency made available by the beneficiary to the issuer of electronic money. Virtual currencies and electronic currencies should therefore not be confused. The latter are means of payment issued only by authorized entities, being generally accepted for the purchase of goods or services. Conversely, virtual currencies can only represent a medium of exchange if they are accepted as such by the other contracting party (a merchant or a natural person).