Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank hasn’t made a decision to issue a digital currency, citing the need for further work and “extensive” public consultation with stakeholders before doing so.
“It’s more important for the United States to get it right than to be first,” Powell said Monday on a panel hosted by the International Monetary Fund during its annual meeting. “We are committed to carefully and thoughtfully evaluating the potential costs and benefits of a central bank digital currency for the U.S. economy and payments system. We have not made a decision to issue a CBDC.”
Fed officials have swerved sharply from their previously cautious approach to digital currencies, embracing a full-scale study on whether one might be suitable for the U.S. Powell said about 80% of central banks around the world are exploring the idea, however.
“There are a number of ways that a CBDC might improve the payments system, and it is mainly this area that motivates our interest,” Powell said.
The central bank announced in August that it was expanding experimentation with technologies related to digital currencies. In addition, the Boston Fed is working with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to build a hypothetical digital currency oriented for central bank use. Many of the policy questions are unresolved, but those efforts are indicative how seriously the Fed now regards the project.
U.S. central bankers were slow to warm to the idea of a digital currency, but their interest picked up after Facebook proposed its own unit of exchange for its users. Digital money could change the way monetary policy works in the economy, as well as speed up a payment system that remains slow and taxing for consumers and behind many other nations.