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CBDCs for Dummies: Everything You Need to Know about Central Bank Digital Currency (And Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of It)


“No cash accepted in this store”. What might seem to some like science fiction is on its way to becoming reality. The rise of non-cash payments is a global phenomenon, although moving at different speeds around the world. To keep up with the digitalisation of payments (and of the economy), many central banks are exploring the development of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), a digital form of cash. Despite being confined to a technical discussion among experts, when (rather than if) launched, CBDCs concerns us all. Thus, raising awareness of what CBDCs are, and of their key economic and political dimensions, is crucial to ensure that citizens are not only passive spectators. This paper has the ambition to provide (non-expert) readers with straightforward and simple answers to some of the many questions they may have around CBDCs. It sets the ground to better understand what CBDCs are (and are not), their drivers and their possible design. It will explore the impact of CBDC systems on privacy, the geo-strategic drivers of CBDCs and the possible rivalry between public and private money.

Paper prepared in the framework of a research effort on the risks and the opportunities related to Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) with the support of Intesa Sanpaolo and the Bank of Italy.

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