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Australian central bank sees no public policy case for retail CBDC

Australian central bank sees no public policy case for retail CBDC

Brushing aside concerns over monetary sovereignty, the Reserve Bank of Australia says that the public policy case for issuing a general purpose or retail CBDC in Australia is still to be made.

The RBA's view, expressed by the central bank's head of payments policy Tony Richards, kicks against a rising tide of interest in other jurisdictions about the potential of a central bank-issued digital currency as a means of counteracting waning cash usage among the general population.

Earlier this month, a group of seven central banks together with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) published a report laying out the key requirements for creation of a central bank digital currency.

The European Central Bank has also launched a public consultation on the possible creation of a digital euro, after a high-level taskforce sketched out possible scenarios that would require central banks to mint their own cryptocurrency.

Says Richards: "Even though the use of cash for transactions is declining, cash is still widely available and accepted as a means of payment. In addition, Australian households and businesses are well served by a modern, efficient and resilient payments system that has undergone significant innovation in recent years, including the introduction of the New Payments Platform, which is a real-time, 24/7 and data-rich electronic payments system."

Richards believes that concerns about loss of monetary sovereignty have been overstated, while issues around data privacy in private stablecoin offerings can be addressed through the regulatory system.

"If a stablecoin denominated in Australian dollars was marketed in Australia, it is likely that it would be subject to significant regulation in terms of safety and soundness, potentially including a requirement that issuance was fully backed by government securities or other very highly rated AUD-denominated assets," he says. "Similarly, any stablecoins marketed in Australia would be subject to any required standards regarding privacy as well as in other areas such as data usage, competition, KYC, and screening for AML and CTF purposes...It is not obvious that a CBDC would be a solution to any particular problems or that there would currently be significant demand for one."

In the meantime, the RBA is pushing ahead with research on the technological and policy implications of a potential wholesale CBDC. This work is taking place in the Bank's in-house Innovation Lab. Earlier work included the development of a limited proof-of-concept of a DLT-based interbank payment system using a tokenised form of CBDC backed by ESA balances.

Says Richards: "Currently, the Bank is collaborating with a number of external parties on a project to extend this proof-of-concept to incorporate tokenised financial assets to explore the implications of delivery-versus-payment settlement on a distributed-ledger platform as well as other programmability features of tokenised CBDC and financial assets. This is interesting research and we will be providing further information on it in due course."

CBDCs will be discussed in depth at EBAday 2020. For delegate passes, register now and join leaders from across Europe's payments ecosystem as EBAday addresses 'The Turning Point in Payments Transformation'.

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