T Rabi Sankar: Central bank digital currency - is this the future of money

Keynote address delivered by Mr T Rabi Sankar, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, at the webinar organised by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi, 22 July 2021.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
11 August 2021


The idea of "Central Bank Digital Currencies" (CBDC) is not a recent development. Some attribute the origins of CBDCs to Nobel laureate James Tobin, an American economist, who in 1980s suggested that that Federal Reserve Banks in the United States could make available to the public a widely accessible 'medium with the convenience of deposits and the safety of currency.' It is only in the last decade, however, that the concept of digital currency has been widely discussed by central banks, economists & governments.

2. Except as currency notes, all other use of paper in the modern financial system, be it as bonds, securities, transactions, communications, correspondences or messaging – has now been replaced by their corresponding digital and electronic versions. On anecdotal evidence, use of physical cash in transactions too has been on the decline in recent years, a trend further reinforced by the ongoing Covid19 pandemic. These developments have resulted in many central banks and governments stepping up efforts towards exploring a digital version of fiat currency. Some of this interest among central banks has been indigenous in nature for pursuing specific policy objectives – for example, facilitate negative interest rate monetary policy. Another driver is to provide the public with virtual currencies, that carry the legitimate benefits of private virtual currencies while avoiding the damaging social and economic consequences of private currencies.

What is a CBDC?

3. It is important to understand and appreciate what precisely is a CBDC, and to do that one needs to understand what a currency is and what money is.