Russian parliament passes a “digital rouble” bill

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The central bank digital currency (CBDC) project in Russia made one large step closer to reality. On July 11, Gosduma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, passed a “digital rouble” bill in the third reading. Now the document faces confirmation in the higher chamber and, afterward, the President’s signature. 

The bill, the draft for which was last amended at the end of June, sets the legal definitions of “platform, ” participants” and “users”, as well as the general guidelines for the CBDC ecosystem.

In the current framework, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) will become the principal “operator” of the digital rouble infrastructure. It also bears the responsibility for all the stored assets.

The main aim of CBDC, according to the Central Bank, is to serve as a payment and transfer method. Hence, its users won’t be able to open savings accounts. As the CBR emphasizes, payments and transfers would be totally free for the individual customers and cost 0.3% of the payment for corporate clients.

Related: Belarus to decide on issuing CBDC by year’s end: National bank chair

The bill was introduced to Gosduma in December 2022 and passed through its first reading in March 2023. In February, a subsidiary of the leading Russian government-owned gas company, Gazprombank, warned against possible risks for banks in the case of the fast transition to digital money. The Russian branch of McKinsey estimated the potential losses of traditional banks from the CBDC implementation at around $3.5 billion (250 billion rubles) in five years. At the same time, the consultancy firm estimated the retailers’ profit at $1.1 billion yearly.

In a recent interview, the deputy chairman of CBR, Olga Skorobogatova, announced the mass rollout of the “digital rouble” for “all Russian citizens” by 2025-27. In 2023-24 the CBDC will be tested in a pilot regime.

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