The Bank of Russia is all set to roll out the first consumer pilot of the country’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), with the pilot set to launch as early as the 1st of April, 2023.
The pilot will enable digital ruble payments for peer-to-peer transactions and retail purchases and will launch in collaboration with 13 banks.
Pilot CBDC Set For Launch
The Bank of Russia is finishing preparations to roll out the first consumer pilot of the country’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The central bank’s deputy governor, Olga Skorobogatova, stated that the digital ruble is ready for its pilot run. According to a statement, the bank will enable digital ruble payments for retail purchases and peer-to-peer transactions. The digital ruble transactions have been facilitated by collaboration with 13 major banks and several merchants. Skorobogatova, in a conversation with journalists, stated,
“The pilot will work on real operations for real people, but only for a limited number of them, with the 13 banks that have signaled they’re ready.”
She further added that once the pilot phase has concluded, the Bank of Russia will look at other ways to expand the project. The Central Bank, Digital Currency pilot will have the involvement of real consumers and real operations. However, according to local reports, it will be limited to a specific number of transactions and customers.
However, the deputy governor was quick to clarify that general customers would be unable to participate in the pilot program, at least during the first stage. Instead, the banks will initiate the pilot phase with a set of chosen customers. Once the pilot stage has concluded, the bank will work on how to scale the scope of the project further. Speaking at the Ural Forum Cybersecurity in Finance, Skorobogatova explained,
“We plan to launch the digital ruble project on the 1st of April, with transactions involving individual transfers as well as payments in trade and service enterprises.”
She also added that banks participating in the pilot have confirmed their readiness to test the digital ruble.
Sticking To The Roadmap
The announcement by the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia is in line with the country’s roadmap for the rollout of the digital ruble, which was officially introduced in 2022. The country’s central bank first proposed a Central Bank Digital Currency project in October 2020, publishing a consultation paper that outlined the potential designs and uses of a digital ruble. The bank, in observations made later, also stated that the CBDC project could potentially help to decrease the Russian economy’s reliance on the US dollar. Furthermore, it observed that a CBDC could also help to mitigate the impact of foreign sanctions imposed on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine began. Initially scheduled for launch in 2024, the pilot was moved to an earlier date with the central bank looking for a viable alternative to the SWIFT payments system and a way to get around economic sanctions placed against Russia.
The news about the pilot launch comes amidst Russian officials claiming that the Bank of Russia is also considering a gold-backed token for cross-border transactions. According to the Bank of Russia’s first deputy governor, Vladimir Chistyukhin, a “golden token” would help Russia with creating a new investment product and also create a demanded payment method for international settlements. There have also been some concerns in the Russian banking community that the new infrastructure for the digital ruble could burden lenders and make the banking system even more centralized and less diverse.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.