Digital currencies are here to stay – a fact that every participant of the traditional economy has already recognized. All that remains now is to start working on the framework that would make digital currencies a fact of everyday life, one that can be applied in the commercial and retail fields.
For a very long time, central bank issued funds were the sole means of transacting on the global market. Fiat funds are ideal as a means of exchange for a great number of reasons. First, there is the historical underpinning, which means that everyone is accustomed to using fiat as a reliable and universally accepted means of exchange. Secondly, the entire global economic framework was tailored to revolve around fiat funds, facilitating their transfer and exchange as a means of value storage. Banks, gateways, financial intermediaries, credit institutions, central banks, corporations, every participant of the economy is injected into the established framework of fiat funds transfer and exchange. Lastly, fiat funds are traceable and can be monitored to identify their holders and trace the entire path that any single bill made from withdrawal from an ATM to deposit in a bank vault.
Though the system may seem perfect and convenient, the fiat framework has a great many deficiencies that are either being overlooked or simply contended with as givens that cannot be changed. Starting from the fact that fiat funds are not anonymous per se, to the fact that bank transfers can take up to several days, the fiat system is cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive, given the immense number of intermediaries and systems involved in it.
The answer to the cumbersome traditional financial system was the development of digital money in the form of Bitcoin – the first ever cryptocurrency. The blockchain basis served as the perfect medium for the transfer of Bitcoin and the value it held across the network near instantly without the involvement of any intermediaries and in completely anonymous fashion. Such convenience meant that a parallel economy had been created, ushering online users into an entirely new reality in which they could transact safely, anonymously, almost instantly, at low fees, without any state authority supervision and without the involvement of any intermediaries on a completely transparent network with full immutability of records.
Blockchain may have seemed like a miraculous technology that could rid mankind of the yoke of fiat and its inherent flaws. However, central banks and authorities were quick to appreciate both the benefits of the technology and the dangers it posed to their chokehold on the global financial system. It is not in the interests of the state or financial authorities for users to have freedom of transacting in anonymous and unrestricted fashion. The restrictions and inconveniences are the price all fiat holders pay for the security of their funds and the efficient control over money laundering and other criminal activities.
No matter what the shortcomings of fiat funds, one has to confess that there are infinitesimally fewer cases of fraudulent banks than there are of fraudulent cryptocurrency exchanges. The reason is that banks act as control nodes for filtering fraudulent activities, while the blockchain is a simmering pot of all manner of users who have unrestricted freedom of using the value transacting capabilities of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general for conducting oftentimes dubious operations that cannot be traced.
In light of the growing adoption of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, central banks are starting to onboard the technology, leading to the advent of the central bank digital currency – the CBDC.
The old saying states – if you can’t beat them, join them. However, in the case of financial frameworks, the adage would best sound as – if you can’t beat them, take the lead. This is precisely the approach being adopted by many central banks around the world after they have started recognizing the growing momentum of blockchain technologies and the influence they are having on financial operations as a whole.
The fact that cryptocurrencies have a total market capitalization in excess of almost half a trillion dollars makes them a force to be reckoned with. And since this is half a trillion dollars that is being circulated within a virtually isolated economy of its own, central banks are unhappy with the fact that they cannot monitor such a huge chunk of capital.
Cryptocurrencies are attractive thanks to their cross-border potential and value retention capabilities. This is best illustrated by the example of Nigeria, where the local Naira lost in excess of 200% of its value in the span of just seven years. Faced with such immense depreciation, locals have started turning to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to preserve their savings.
Central banks therefore needed a way to attract the growing audience of cryptocurrency users by offering something that would appeal to their desire to retain the value of their savings and at the same time take advantage of the technical capabilities of the blockchain. The answer was the Central Bank Digital Currency – a state-issued cryptocurrency based on the blockchain. The concept is extremely appealing, since the central bank has the necessary leverage in terms of finances to ensure the intrinsic backing of the digital asset and has the support of the government – both pillars of economic stability and trust vested by the population.
The CBDC is therefore a win-win scenario that foresees both the application of blockchain technologies with all of their inherent technical benefits for users, and the possibility of having complete control over the issued funds on the part of central banks. Users get convenience, the central banks get control of the economy.
The digital currency is a revolutionary means of transacting, one that is rapidly becoming the ideal solution for many operations in a world gripped by geopolitical uncertainty in the throes of a sanctions bacchanalia. With such restrictions being placed on average people around the world on the part of the traditional financial system, it is only natural for said people to start looking for alternative means of transacting, since no geopolitical instability can ever affect people’s desire to interact.
In light of such unfavorable conditions that cast an eerie shadow of mistrust on the traditional financial system, the rise of digital currencies is becoming inevitable. Central banks, on the other hand, are unwilling to give up their chokehold of the financial system and are looking for ways of entering the digital economy as not just participants, but leaders. The instrument for such purposes is the CBDC – a perfect merger of the blockchain and state backing. With fiat as the collateral and the state’s support as the element of trust at play, central banks are confident that average people will forsake Bitcoin and its ilk with their volatility in favor of more stable and reliable digital representations of conventional fiat.