Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are currently one of the most debated topics in central banking. According to a recent study by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 86 percent of surveyed central banks worldwide are considering issuing a CBDC. The motives for introducing a retail CBDC, i.e., a digital form of central bank money available to the general public, are quite diverse for emerging and developing economies (EMDEs) on the one hand and for advanced economies (AEs) on the other. While for EMDEs, financial inclusion and payment efficiency are the most relevant motives, central banks in AEs mainly expect CBDCs to increase payment safety and payment efficiency (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Motives for Issuing a Retail CBDC
Source: Boar, Wehrli (2021)
The increased interest of central banks in AEs to issue a CBDC mainly stems from two developments. Firstly, the use of cash as a means of payment is in decline. This ongoing trend has been reinforced recently by the change in individuals' payment behavior resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. As a consequence of the lower importance of cash as a means of payment, the only form of central bank money available to the general public, transactions are mainly conducted via private-sector payment infrastructures. In Europe, according to the European Central Bank (ECB) approximately 52 percent of the transaction volume is processed via the private sector. Consequently, central banks seek to explore issuing CBDCs to decrease the dependence on private sector payment infrastructures and increase the role of the public sector. The main goal is to establish a resilient payment system that cannot be endangered by fallouts and that works properly even in times of crises, such as natural disasters or private sector-specific issues.
Secondly, non-fiat denominated means of payments are increasing in importance. While cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ether, gain traction worldwide, they currently lack scalability and (price) stability. For Bitcoin, for example, a price increase of a few percentage points a day is not uncommon. Stablecoins, such as the Facebook-initiated Diem project, intend to address these limitations and could potentially constitute viable, alternative means of payments. Central bankers fear that such non-euro denominated means of payment could compete with conventional fiat currencies and threaten the role of central banks. Consequently, monetary policy measures could become inefficient, and payment systems would be dependent on private sector stablecoin providers. As a reaction to such initiatives, central banks in AEs intend to create resilient, independent digital payment infrastructures in the form of CBDCs.
THE STATUS QUO ON CBDC DATA
Given the high worldwide dynamic on CBDCs, current CBDC projects are in heterogeneous stages. CBDC projects can be classified according to the following different stages:
However, there are limitations on available CBDC data.
First, the data is very fragmented. CBDC data is not universally observable and aggregated at one single source. Even if there are first databases by the BIS and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is no detailed database that displays a wide array of different dimensions to compare and classify worldwide CBDC projects. Additionally, there is a lack of graphical and constantly updated information.
Second, there is a significant amount of false or misleading information about CBDC projects available online. For non-experts (or even experts), it is difficult to conclude whether a specific initiative is indeed a CBDC project or only a novel payment infrastructure that is, e.g., based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) but does not transact central bank money.
Third, CBDC-related information from primary sources, such as central banks, is not available in all jurisdictions. A wide array of central banks lack transparency regarding their CBDC efforts.
These three limitations make it very burdensome to follow, evaluate, and compare CBDC projects worldwide.
THE CBDC TRACKER
To provide a detailed database for CBDC projects, we have set up the CBDC Tracker. The CBDC Tracker is ...
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