The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is in a position to start off with testing and running pilot projects of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) now that the legislative enablement has been done by the government, RBI Deputy Governor T. Rabi Shankar told reporters in a post monetary policy committee press conference on April 8.
This is in line with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget announcement that the RBI will launch CBDC in the present fiscal. CBDC is a digital form of fiat currency.
Addressing reporters today, Shankar said the approach that RBI will take towards CBDCs will be calibrated and nuanced. “We will probably start off with one pilot and move on from one to the other. The wholesale segment is probably the first one we will try out as it will be the easiest to implement. The other segments are more technology-intensive,” he said.
The regulator wants to ensure that it introduces CBDCs in a manner that is non-disruptive, he added.
Shankar’s comments come a day after he said that he believes CBDCs can replace cash-based transactions to some extent in India.
Over the last five years, while digital payments have risen at an average annual growth rate of about 50 percent in India, the supply of currency has also almost nearly doubled, Shankar said on April 7. The currency in circulation before demonetisation in 2016 was roughly about Rs 17 trillion and presently it is at about Rs 30 trillion.
Shankar cited a 2018-2019 RBI survey that showed that cash accounts for roughly 50 percent of all transactions in India and for transactions below Rs 500, the percentage goes up to 70 percent. Thus, CBDCs have a scope to replace cash to some extent, Shankar said.
The central bank deputy governor further said that 87 countries globally, accounting for 90 percent of world GDP, are in some way or the other, looking actively at CBDCs. These nations are either researching, publicly discussing, or launching pilots and some have even gone live with such assets.
However, issues such as CBDCs' impact on monetary policy effectiveness, the transmission of rates, currency leakage, and privacy and data protection are some of the challenges that need to be dealt with and thus the RBI is cautiously moving ahead with the implementation of the project, Shankar had said.