- First Deputy Governor of Russia’s central bank confirms the development of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for cross-border payments.
- Despite setbacks, the digital ruble project moves forward, with the central bank serving as the primary tester.
Amid economic sanctions supported by Western nations, Russia has begun to pivot toward digital solutions to circumvent existing payment embargoes. Olga Skorobogatova, the First Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia, has recently underscored the nation’s commitment to developing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) with cross-border payment capabilities.
International transactions have become a massive challenge for Russian banks following exclusion from global payment platforms since the Ukraine conflict. In an interview with Forbes, Skorobogatova pointed out that the integration of digital currencies can replace SWIFT given appropriate agreements are established between two or more countries.
The Digital Ruble: An Evolving Hybrid Solution
The design of Russia’s proposed CBDC follows a hybrid approach combining centralized and blockchain technologies. Although the urgency is high, Skorobogatova affirms that the digital ruble project will roll out gradually, similar to the phased approach adopted for China’s digital yuan.
Contrary to some suggestions, the Russian government has no plans to pay salaries in digital rubles as a means to drive adoption. This strategy differentiates it from the national Mir payment system. The Bank of Russia will be at the helm of the digital ruble trial phase, dedicating a specific unit to handle potential disputes.
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Despite the acceleration of CBDC development, Skorobogatova conveys that the digital ruble is purely a medium of payment and transfer. Therefore, the central bank will not issue loans in the digital ruble, nor apply interest rates. However, the bank is exploring options to implement a retail version. Still, the prospect of integrating offline payment capabilities remains distant.
Legislative Hurdles and The Path Ahead
The journey to the digital ruble is not without bumps. Legislative barriers have resulted in the delay of a proposed pilot, primarily due to disagreements regarding the Bank of Russia’s exact powers and non-residents’ rights to use CBDCs. Once these issues are resolved, the pilot is set to commence with 13 banks exploring a variety of CBDC use cases.
Amid these challenges, Russia is also considering the potential of a shared currency among BRICs nations. As global politics and economics evolve, so too does the course of digital currencies, shaping a new frontier in international transactions.
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