In a move mirroring Russia’s efforts, Belarus is poised to introduce its own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a digital rendition of the Belarusian ruble, aimed at facilitating cross-border transactions.
Reports from Minsk-Novosti and Interfax reveal that the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) considers the upcoming CBDC launch as a pivotal milestone among its recent initiatives.
Dmitry Kalechits, Deputy Chairman of the NRBR’s Board, articulated the plans:
“Among our ambitious undertakings, a standout project involves the introduction of the digital Belarusian ruble, designed for seamless cross-border utilisation.”
Notably, Moscow exhibited similar aspirations recently, with prominent political figures hinting at the compatibility of Russia’s digital ruble with China’s digital yuan and other global CBDCs.
Kalechits expounded on the NBRB’s vision, stating that the CBDC has already been conceptually outlined and recognised as a legitimate tender that fulfills all functions attributed to traditional currency.
He affirmed that the digital coin would be officially issued by the central bank, holding an equivalent value to physical denominations of the Belarusian ruble.
Kalechits’ statements emerged several months after Pavel Kallaur, the Governor of the bank, disclosed plans for a CBDC “experiment” involving a select group of participants.
According to BELTA, Kallaur indicated that both commercial banks and individuals would be partaking in this trial phase.
However, Kallaur appeared cautious at the time, stressing the necessity for the NBRB to thoroughly evaluate the feasibility of a digital Belarusian ruble.
He emphasised the need for Presidential authorisation, underscoring that the ultimate verdict would rest with the head of state.
Nevertheless, Russia’s assertive strides in developing its digital ruble initiative seem to have galvanised Belarus to expedite its own CBDC agenda.
Kalechits elucidated that transactions conducted with the digital ruble would be legally classified as non-cash payments, a phrasing akin to the stipulations in Moscow’s own CBDC legislation.
Presently, Russia’s CBDC trial is underway, with several commercial banks conducting pilot transactions in digital RUB with designated customer groups.
In contrast to Moscow’s cautious approach, Belarus has actively sought to attract cryptocurrency enterprises. To foster a favorable environment for regional crypto ventures, the capital city, Minsk, established the Hi-Tech Park, extending visa exemptions and tax privileges to foreign cryptocurrency companies until at least 2025.
Reports indicate that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko engaged in discussions about CBDC with Elvira Nabiullina, the crypto-skeptical Governor of the Russian Central Bank, in late May.
Subsequently, Lukashenko and the NRBR committed to making an informed decision regarding CBDC launch by year-end.
Evidently, since May, the bank has inched closer to realising this goal, aligning its CBDC strategy with Moscow’s ongoing developments.