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The idea of Central Bank Digital Currency in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NUE by the RBI

Mains level: Paper 3- Digital currency by the central bank and its advantages

The article discusses the idea of digital currency supported by the RBI and its advantages.

Purpose of NUE

  • RBI recently released the framework for the establishment of a new umbrella entity (NUE) for retail payments.
  • NUE would help reduce payments concentration risk with Unified Payments Interface (UPI) facilitating over 1.5 bn transactions a month.
  • Given the sticky adoption and only a few payments apps dominating the UPI market, RBI intends to create a parallel retail system.

5 requirements payment systems should fulfil

  • 1) The payments system should reduce the cost and time for government support to reach unbanked and underbanked people.
  • 2) It should ensure ease of access to credit for small and medium businesses.
  • 3) Improve the effectiveness of the implementation of monetary policy.
  • 4) The new payment system should effectively counter risk from unregulated new digital currencies like Bitcoin.
  • 5) It should discourage money laundering and tax evasion.

CBDC: Solution to the above 5 requirements

  • CBDC is the digital form of fiat money, a digital equivalent of banknotes and coins.
  • A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) could potentially solve the above problems.
  • Retail CBDCs can be issued directly by the central bank to people without going through traditional banks.
  • Individuals would have CBDC accounts directly on the central bank core ledger.
  • CBDC can reduce the cost and time for government support to reach people during desperate times (like pandemic).
  • CBDC can also enable many financial entities to settle directly with RBI.
  • In the current set up only a few large banks can settle directly with RBI.
  • With a digital currency, the settlement can be instantaneous and, as a result, more payments services providers like NBFCs could connect with RBI, thereby, reducing credit and liquidity risk.
  • CBDC lending would build MSMEs history and make further lending easier.
  • For India to be a $5 tn economy, businesses need credit, and that can happen when we have more banks.
  • India had 97 banks in 1947; today we are still at 95!
  • Interest bearing CBDCs can also improve monetary policy effectiveness by enabling real-time pass-through of the policy rate to the lending markets.
  • CBDCs can also allow for direct deposits into accounts of low-income households, senior citizens dependent on pensions and help cushion their purchasing power from the low-level interest rates during the times of economic downturn.
  • CBDC can thwart some competition against privately issued foreign currency-denominated digital currencies.

Roles and responsibility of RBI with respect to CBDC

  • In terms of managing roles and responsibilities, RBI would only hold the accounts and implement monetary policies as it does now.
  • Fintech companies can become the channel for retail CBDC transmission and manage client relationships.
  • Fintechs can complement the commercial banks and can draw small businesses/poor households into the formal economy.
  • These companies could leverage their data to estimate customers’ creditworthiness and share their findings to banks for more efficient allocation of credit.

Consider the question “A digital currency backed by the central bank could transform the retail payment landscape in India. Discuss.”


India has been at the forefront of the fintech revolution, and other developed countries have been following its path. While the world watches the melee between the Greenback and the Renminbi, it is time India also lays the foundation for a strong currency. CBDC may just be one of the ways to do it.

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