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Britain Considering New Digital Currency Britcoin

  • 20 Apr 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

British authorities are exploring the possibility of creating a Central Bank Digital Currency, being touted as "Britcoin."

  • It is a step towards future proofing Pound Sterling (currency of the United Kingdom) against cryptocurrencies and improving the payments system.

Key Points

  • About Britcoin:
    • In the wake of declining cash payments in the country partly due to the Corona pandemic, the Bank of England and the Treasury are considering creating Digital Currency.
    • The Digital currency, if passed, would exist alongside cash and bank deposits and act as a new form of money to be used by households and businesses in England.
    • It would sit at the interface between cash and private payments systems and would not necessarily be based on distributed ledger technology.
    • This ‘britcoin’ would be tied to the value of the pound to eliminate holding it as an asset to derive profit.
    • The move could have an economic impact in the form of wider investment into the UK tech sector and lower transaction costs for international businesses.
    • Britain’s digital currency would be different in a key sense as if passed, it would be issued by state authorities.
      • Currently, only the Bahamas has such a currency, though China is trialing it in several cities.
  • Digital Currency:
    • Digital currency is a payment method which is in electronic form and is not tangible.
    • It can be transferred between entities or users with the help of technology like computers, smartphones and the internet.
    • Although it is similar to physical currencies, digital money allows borderless transfer of ownership as well as instantaneous transactions.
    • Digital currency is also known as digital money and cybercash. E.g. Cryptocurrency.
  • Central Bank Digital Currency:
    • A central bank digital currency (CBDC) uses an electronic record or digital token to represent the virtual form of a fiat currency of a particular nation (or region).
      • Fiat Currency: It is government-issued currency that is not backed by a physical commodity, such as gold or silver, but rather by the government that issued it.
    • A CBDC is centralized; it is issued and regulated by the competent monetary authority of the country.
    • Each unit acts as a secure digital instrument equivalent to a paper bill and can be used as a mode of payment, a store of value, and an official unit of account.
  • Benefits:
    • CBDC aims to bring in the best of both worlds—the convenience and security of digital form like cryptocurrencies, and the regulated, reserved-backed money circulation of the traditional banking system.
    • New forms of digital money could provide a parallel boost to the vital lifelines that remittances provide to the poor and to developing economies.
    • It will ensure that people are protected from financial instability caused due to the failure of private payments systems.
    • Ensures that central banks retain control over monetary policy against the remote possibility that payments might migrate into cryptocurrencies over which they have no leverage.
  • Risk Associated:
    • There is a need to enforce strict compliance of Know Your Customer (KYC) norms to prevent the currency’s use for terror financing or money laundering.
    • Existence of digital money could undermine the health of commercial banks as it removes deposits on which they primarily rely for income.
  • India’s Stand on Digital Currency:
    • Reserve Bank India (RBI) had considered cryptocurrencies as a poor unit of account and also demonstrated by their frequent and high fluctuation in value.
    • According to RBI, it pose several risks, including anti-money laundering and terrorism financing concerns (AML/CFT) for the state and liquidity, credit, and operational risks for users.
    • However, it is considering developing a sovereign digital currency when the time is appropriate.

Source: TH

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