Japan’s new political leadership is calling on the country’s financial bureaucrats to ramp up efforts towards issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) as China’s progress presents a potential challenge.
The government has increased staff looking into legal and technical aspects of issuing a CBDC, which are digital forms of existing currencies.
While the political attention has yet to translate into any other direct investment, it is also likely to keep the Bank of Japan (BOJ) under pressure to shift away from its cautious approach towards issuing a digital yen, analysts say.
“We must think about what could happen to Japan’s national security if other countries move ahead on [a] CBDC,” said Takayuki Kobayashi, a minister overseeing economic security – a new role created by new prime minister Fumio Kishida.
“Japan must speed things up so it’s ready to issue a digital yen any time,” he said.
The financial establishment is becoming increasingly positive towards CBDC programmes despite the risks to traditional lenders.
Potential for Reducing Costs
The Bank for International Settlements says its trials have shown a prototype CBDC shows potential for reducing costs and speeding up cross-border payments.
“CBDCs are inherently disruptive to financial institutions, and, although not meant to compete directly with bank deposits, CBDCs would provide an appealing risk-free alternative, attracting retail deposits, the predominant funding source of banks,” Farooq Khan and Melina Skouridou, vice-presidents at Moody’s, said in a recent note.
“This would create heightened disintermediation risks for banks, higher funding costs and fee income loss,” they added.
China has already run tests in major cities for a possible launch of a digital yuan next year. Japan, along with other G7 advanced nations, have moved much slower.
The BOJ started the first phase of its experiment only in April, and said it has no immediate plans to issue a digital yen. Pilot programmes won’t take place until 2023 at the earliest.
- Reuters, with George Russell