Received 20.02.2022. Revised 14.03.2022. Accepted 06.04.2022.
Abstract. Currently, some countries are testing Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). In February 2022 the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) launched its own pilot project of the digital Rouble. According to the CBR’s concept the digital Rouble’s platform (DRP) may be the first step to improvement of trans-border payments/settlements including its potential integration with CBDC platforms of other countries. The author analyses the CBR’s concept and financial statistics to answer the question: can the digital Rouble increase usage of the Russian currency worldwide? Currently the Rouble is mainly used in trade settlements of Russia with Belarus (the share of the Rouble is 81 per cent) and Kazakhstan (62 per cent). In 2014 financial sanctions were imposed on Russia and the US Dollar transactions became unavailable for certain businesses. Since that moment the Russian Government made a lot of efforts to increase usage of the Rouble in foreign trade settlements, but the success was marginal. In general, the share of Rouble has increased, but it has seriously grown only in settlements for Russian exports to India – from 1.1 per cent in 2013 to 57.8 per cent in 2021. Despite Russia has an open financial account there is a number of obstacles for wider usage of the Rouble worldwide and they are as follows: Russia exports mainly raw materials, whose prices are denominated in the US Dollars; though last years the Russian government mainly borrowed in Roubles still at any convenient case it also borrows in other currencies; Russia has a big sovereign fund (over 10 per cent of its GDP), which is invested in non-Rouble papers; it is not rare happened that the state officials in public speeches advocate depreciation of the Rouble. Cumulatively the above mentioned issues lessen confidence in the Rouble and consequently decrease demand for it and its liquidity. Will the digital Rouble be immune to all of this? The author analysed its features and did not find anything that might help to overcome the abovementioned obstacles. There is also no evidence that the Russian Government may change its policy regarding the sovereign fund and other obstacles. Also, another serious threat for the digital Rouble may come from a new concept of the Russian Ministry of Finance, which advocates very soon inclusion of the cryptocurrency industry (CI) into the Russian financial system. Various countries, upon widening their experiments with the CBDC, begin to realise that the CI is a real threat to the CBDC. China is the first who has understood that there is a choice: either the CBDC or the CI, but not both. The CI already functions worldwide on a range of highly sophisticated and secure digital platforms. They cannot be really regulated by any country, though some governments have illusion that they can do this. The CBDC platforms will provide only in-country transactions at initial stage and connection between various CBDC platforms is a question yet. The CI platforms already operate globally and also give their users big anonymity, while this feature is something that the CBDC projects intend to exclude. Additional problem for Russia is that, given the low level of the Rouble internationalisation, in case the cryptocurrency industry would be legalised here, so this gives to local users much more interesting and developed instrument that yet to became feasible local digital currency. That’s why the author doubts that the digital Rouble will substantially increase the international role of the Russian currency in the near future.
Keywords: Russia, CBDC, internationalisation of Rouble, cryptocurrency, stability of monetary system
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