On Wednesday, Belarus Central Bank’s Chairman Pavel Kallaur spoke about potentially introducing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in his country. Mr. Kallaur noted that a Belarusian digital ruble is in the works and could be officially announced by the end of the year. Officials are looking closely at the experience of Russia’s Central Bank.
During a press conference yesterday, the Chairman reported that a digital ruble proof of concept (PoC) has already been developed and approved. “We are working on building a demo version, a platform to try it out,” he said, hinting that a launch decision could be imminent. “By the end of the year, we must, having held discussions and consultations, decide on the feasibility and possibility of introducing the digital ruble in our country.”
Mr. Kallaur also said Belarus is learning from Russia’s own digital ruble efforts to avoid “other people’s mistakes”. However, the country also seems to be following its neighbor’s steps to protect their special relationship. Belarus is Russia’s primary ally in the Ukrainian war, and the two countries conduct a great deal of trade together, so the Chairman expressed great interest in using CBDCs to facilitate cross-border payments.
In 2021, Russia launched a CBDC pilot with 12 domestic banks to test the digital ruble’s feasibility and ensure financial institutions could adapt their systems. At the time, the central bank Governor reported concerns about the fragmentation of monetary systems and potential bank concentration. More recently, however, cross-border payments have become the key driver behind Russia’s CBDC initiative. This may be an attempt to ease the pressure on the country’s monetary system in the face of Western sanctions.