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Cyberattacks, cost of digital dollars worries TT central bank

In a recently published Financial Stability Report, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (TT) said it is conducting due diligence into the prospect of introducing a digital currency for the twin-island republic.

However, the central bank is concerned about associated risks, which it points out includes cyberattacks, “which are likely to lead not only to service disruptions, but also adversely affect economic activity, as well as potentially high initial operating and social costs”, the central bank stated.

According to a Bank for International Settlements’ survey conducted in January 2021, over 80 per cent of the world’s central banks have explored central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Fifteen pilot projects, two live CBDCs and 30 related projects are in the exploration and research phase.

Signage for Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (Photo: Pride News Magazine)

There are two CBDC variants that have been adopted — retail CBDCs (R-CBDC) and wholesale CBDCs (W-CBDC). The first kind is accessible to the general public, and the second is restricted to certain institutions.

The TT Central Bank stated in the report: “With regards to CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency), the central bank continues to be open but cautious and pragmatic in its approach. In 2020 the central bank conducted preliminary research into the feasibility of issuing a local CBDC and is furthering its due diligence study in 2021 with the assistance of the IMF [International Monetary Fund], whilst focusing on strengthening the broader framework for payments via key channels.”

The International Monetary Fund is assisting the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago on a feasibility study on central bank digital currency while strengthening the broader framework for payments via key channels.” (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The central bank noted that the threat of losing monetary sovereignty, inter alia, has compelled regulators to consider issuing CBDCs. The reduced use of cash, costly and lengthy payment transactions, tax evasion, and financial inclusion are other reasons.

In 2020 the Sand Dollar was launched in The Bahamas, and in March 2021 DCash — a pilot project — was launched in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. In Jamaica, there are plans to pursue a local CBDC. The Bank of Jamaica is working with technology firm eCurrency Mint in the roll-out of its own CBDC. Jamaica minted the first $230 million in digital currency on Monday and will begin the pilot phase of the roll-out in September.

The central bank of TT said improved flow of funds into the economy, along with TT’s electricity access, Internet, and mobile usage penetration and global connectivity indicators suggest that the country is prepared for fintech innovations.