Brazil central bank forms CBDC study group

Brazil’s quest for a digital real has taken a step further, this time with the formation of an intergovernmental study group. The group will investigate the implications of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) on the country’s economy, the risks posed and the benefits the country could gain from the use of a digital currency.

In its official announcement, the Banco Central do Brasil said the group will have 12 members, tasked with conducting a worldwide study on CBDCs. The regulator believes that a digital real could greatly improve the existing payment systems in the country and beyond.

The group will study the scope of a digital real, its benefits to the society and the challenges it could pose to the country’s economy. It will also study how the CBDC will be affected by cybersecurity risks, regulatory frameworks and data protection laws.

As with many other countries, Brazil pointed at China’s great CBDC leaps as a key motivator for its own efforts. According to Rafael Sarres de Almeida, an official at the central bank, China has shown the world that there is a great demand for digital payments. However, he clarified that the study group does not necessarily mean the regulator will issue a CBDC.

“The working group will allow us to assess possible implications in areas such as financial inclusion, economic growth, technological innovation and increased efficiency of transactions, and, thus, give more clarity on the subject to the central bank,” said Arnaldo Filho, another top ranking official at the bank.

Other than facilitating digital payments and improving financial inclusion, a digital real would also cut down on the cost of minting and maintaining banknotes. Every year, Brazil incurs R$90 billion ($16.1 billion) in the issuance, custody, distribution, handling, collection and disposal of its banknotes, approximately 1% of its GDP. The use of a digital real could greatly cut these costs down.

The Brazilian central bank is hoping a CBDC could take over its digital payments space, which has been attracting some of the world’s largest companies. Facebook has been one of the most aggressive, targeting Brazilians with its WhatsApp payments service. With Brazil being its second-biggest WhatsApp market after India, Facebook views it as one of its most strategic payments products market. However, the local regulators have yet to allow it to operate in the Latin American country. As it stands, WhatsApp payments are currently suspended in Brazil.

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