Written by Vipusan Kukanathan
For a long time now cash use has been in decline and the use of digital currency has increased. A trend that has only been accelerated during the covid-19 crisis. Going digital will help central banks maintain control over currency circulation and promote financial inclusion. Digital currencies leveraging blockchain technology issued by central banks can simplify cross-border transactions, effectively challenge threats caused by crypto-currencies and provide payment system stability, but they also come with privacy and surveillance risks. These risks will mean substitutions and compromises being made to technology infrastructures to find the right balance between efficiency and security.
Q3 in 2020 saw the rise of crypto asset users by around 100 million people and since 2018, that figure has seen an increase of around 190%, with around an estimated 300million individual users to date. This comes as no surprise. A surplus of quantitative easing and a rise in inflation has meant that people were turning to ‘safe-havens’ assets such as Bitcoin and other stable-coins to store their cash, because the increase in inflation threatened to decrease the buying power of the dollar. Safe-havens, otherwise known as “stable coins” are a new class of cryptocurrencies that attempt to offer price stability. With publicly trading companies also jumping on the band-wagon, this newly found confidence in Bitcoin has given increased merit to the concept of crypto-currencies as a store-of-value and safe-haven asset.
Whilst the UK and US are playing catch-up, China has been looking at this since 2014 and has taken the initiative to create its own digital currency. They have also managed to trial it out across its major cities to see how it fairs in the real world and are coming to the completion stage of their trials.
Even as it stands currently, only 8% of cash is physical and the rest of the 92% is essentially created digitally via banks via the Fiat Monetary System as debt via the conduit of double entry book keeping. Therefor the 92% has no physical notes or coins. Banks already store value electronically and the 92% includes all kinds of transactions done using credit debit cards and wire transfers. As time starts to run out, decisions are going to have to be made fast. Although some existing players may disappear and new ones ay emerge, the requirement for a stable system that the public can put their trust into will always remain as a core necessity. Although there has been an increase of crypto asset users, the majority of the people will still be looking to the central banks in order to create their own digital currencies to prevent the unstable environment that is sometimes observed in the world of cryptocurrency.