Reserve Bank of India mulls first steps toward an eventual CBDC

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The Reserve Bank of India, or RBI, continues to investigate the issuance of a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.

T Rabi Sankar, the deputy governor of RBI, said in a speech organized by the Vidhi Center for Legal Policy that private digital currencies could be part of what makes CBDCs ultimately necessary. He felt that the RBI’s development of it’s own CBDC could provide the public with many of the same uses as digital currencies such as Bitcoin, while limiting the average user’s exposure to volatility. He stated:

“Indeed, this could be the key factor nudging central banks from considering CBDCs as a secure and stable form of digital money…. The case for CBDC for emerging economies is thus clear – CBDCs are desirable not just for the benefits they create in payments systems, but also might be necessary to protect the general public in an environment of volatile private VCs.”

Sankar continued that the RBI is currently looking at a phased implementation strategy, and examining cases where a CBDC could be put into practice with little to no disruption of the bank’s status quo. The official detailed a number of issues that would need to be examined before CBDC implementation could truly be considered. He noted the need for careful consideration with regard to how retail payments, or payments occurring between consumers and businesses, would be orchestrated. Security issues, including the degree of allowable user anonymity, were also up for debate.

Related: India’s ICICI Bank warns remittance users to steer away from Bitcoin

Of the problems mentioned, Sankar seemed most concerned with the toppling of central bank oversight and authority. He stressed that traditional financial institutions might lose their role as trusted third-parties, should individual users be given the ability to trustlessly transact for themselves. An arguably valid fear, given that Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto openly devised blockchain technology as a way to end the stranglehold he felt banks needlessly enjoyed with regard to disintermediation.

People transacting without a middleman could also reduce the bank’s ability to issue credit to patrons, according to Sankar. In his statement however, the official failed to acknowledge the numerous options for decentralized credit issuance which the DeFi community has devised — a number of which have already been successfully implemented.

Sankar said that while there is more research to be done, it may not be long before pilot projects in both the retail and wholesale markets are put into motion:

“Setting this up will require careful calibration and a nuanced approach in implementation. Drawing board considerations and stakeholder consultations are important. Technological challenges have their importance as well. As is said, every idea will have to wait for its time. Perhaps the time for CBDCs is nigh.”

CBDCs have gained a lot of traction over the past year. South Korea recently chose a blockchain subsidiary of a local internet company as the technology provider for the pilot tests of its digital won. Members of the staff of the Bank of Canada also released a study detailing the possible benefits of a CBDC. They noted a number of plusses, including the elimination of transaction fees on debit and credit cards, and the possibilities inherent to programmable currency. In the U.S., the Chairman of the Federal Reserve said a CBDC could cut down on the number of cryptocurrencies being launched.