Coronavirus crisis puts central bank digital currency 'into sharper focus': BIS official

The head of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub said late last week that the ongoing coronavirus crisis has put the global conversation around central bank digital currencies (CBDC) "into sharper focus."

That comments came during a webinar hosted by Accenture, the Chamber of Digital Commerce and the ReReinventing Bretton Woods Committee on April 17. Benoît Cœuré touched on two areas – "resilience and technology" – that he expects will be relevant in a post-COVID-19 world from a central banking and payments perspective.

During his commentary, Cœuré remarked that "the crisis has exposed the value of technologies which enable the economy to operate at arm's length and partially overcome social distancing. Such drastic changes in work and consumption patterns, such as the dramatic shift to online shopping6, will have a lasting impact on economic relationships."

He went on to say:

"The current discussion on central bank digital currency also comes into sharper focus. Whether COVID-19 will accelerate the demise of cash is an open question. But already, it highlights the value of having access to diverse means of payments, and the need for any means of payments to be resilient against a broad range of threats."

"COVID-19 will accelerate the digital transition beyond payments," he added.

Earlier this month, a BIS bulletin suggested that the pandemic may lead to a shift in payment habits, given concerns that paper banknotes might serve as an infection vector for coronavirus.

As The Block previously reported, researchers from the BIS said in January that central banks around the world are pursuing "extensive work" on the digital currency front. 

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