Sweden’s Central Bank Governor Lays Out Digital Currency Vision

Before a technological concept is introduced to the wider public, it is common for it to first undergo beta testing to iron out any deficiencies that may not be immediately obvious to the developers. An example of this in the UK is the latest instalment of the Football Manager franchise. Every year the maker Sports Interactive issues a beta version which players painstakingly test prior to the official release of the game. After feedback is analysed and acted upon, the aim then is for a smooth launch of the finished product.

Whilst on a much grander scale, beta testing will serve as an equally important aspect in how central banks plan to successfully implement their own variants of digital currency.

In one of my recent articles I discussed an appearance by Federal Reserve board member Lael Brainard at an event held in Washington D.C. called, ‘The Future of Money in the Digital Age‘. Present also at this event was the Governor of Sweden’s central bank (the Sveriges Riksbank) Stefan Ingves. During a panel discussion, Ingves laid out a six step criteria for the introduction of central bank digital currency. Before expanding on Sweden’s specific role pertaining to CBDC’s, here is a summary of the six steps in question:

  1. Large value and retail payments must be settled in central bank money anywhere around the world – in real time – 24 hours a day
  2. Cross currency and cross border payments must also be settled in central bank money under the same conditions
  3. A re-definition of what constitutes legal tender in the digital age
  4. A digital currency issued directly by the central bank and certified as legal tender
  5. Government sponsored digital identification as part of new regulations and a reinforcement of financial inclusion
  6. A requirement for physical money and a system to distribute banknotes in the event that the digital network goes down, to be under the control of the central bank

Out of all the six steps, number five is perhaps the most ambiguous. What it refers to is something Bank of England governor Mark Carney discussed in a speech at Mansion House in London last year. As part of the BOE’s objective to reform the UK’s RTGS payments system, they have been looking to utilise what is known as the ‘Legal Entity Identifier.’ This would mean that every transaction undertaken within the renewed RTGS could be traced back directly to each participating individual. This is significant not just in terms of privacy, but also because as Victoria Cleland of the BOE has mentioned, the vast majority of consumers are completely dependent on RTGS. If implemented, the LEI would, according to Carney, be a format that ‘defines international best practice‘. Central banks hope to deflect concerns over LEI by claiming it will combat terrorist financing and prevent money laundering. In reality it has more to do with depriving consumers of any last vestiges of anonymity.

A good starting point for appreciating the significance of Ingves’ vision is to look at the Riksbank’s commentary on digital currency. Exactly one year ago Ingves gave a speech that outlined the central banks’ ‘e-krona‘ project. Since 2017 the Riksbank have been engaged in an extensive research programme on the potential for issuing a digital version of its Krona currency that would eventually supersede physical money.

Ingves confirmed that the bank is building a pilot version of e-krona. There are two possible models for how it could be introduced. The first is through e-kronas held in an account at the Riksbank, with the second allowing the general public to hold money with the central bank through digital tokens stored on a bank card or mobile app. What the two have in common is that no matter which option was implemented, both would see the public’s money held directly at the Riksbank.

As many readers will already be aware of, physical cash is classified as central bank money. The digital variant of banknotes, for example debit cards, is commercial bank money. Put simply, the private bank you and I hold accounts with have the authority to hold our money electronically and allow us at any time to convert it back into cash e.g. central bank money. Judging by what the Riksbank have said, an e-krona currency could allow individuals to hold electronic money with the central bank, bypassing the traditional commercial banking system.

As for why Sweden in particular are spearheading the digital currency movement

in Europe, one reason is that according to several news sources, a spate of high profile robberies after the year 2000 served to change people’s perception of cash for the worse. A growing number of businesses have ever since been seeking to abandon cash in favour of digital only payments. Even Swedish unions have been campaigning for cash free workplaces, on the grounds of protecting their members.

Aside from this, Sweden’s small population of ten million is looked upon as a pioneer of digital technology within the field of payments. In a survey conducted by the Riksbank in 2018, just 13% said they paid for their most recent purchase using cash. In 2010 that figure was 39%. Cash is no longer accepted in a growing swathe of restaurants and shops, and cannot be used to park your car or pay taxi and bus fares. These circumstances have provided Riksbank governor Ingves with the ammunition to declare that Sweden must now prepare for an all digital payment future.

This is where point three of Ingves’ six step plan comes into focus. With banknotes in rapid decline, the Riksbank is stressing the need to review the Sveriges Riksbank Act that governs their control of the money supply. Chapter five of the act states that banknotes and coins issued by the Riksbank are legal tender. But there are no provisions within the act to accommodate an e-krona, which is why Ingves wants the country’s legal tender legislation re-evaluated.

In April this year the Riksbank proposed a review of the concept of legal tender, arguing that within the near future cash usage could become almost non-existent and leave a void in terms of who has jurisdiction over the issuance of money:

The general public no longer having access to any form of central bank money can make it more difficult for the Riksbank to promote a safe and efficient payment system in Sweden, not just in times of crisis and war but also in peacetime. The Riksbank has previously expressed concern over this development and has therefore analysed the scope for introducing a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

What the Riksbank want, in their own words, is a review of ‘the state’s role with regard to means of payment in a digitalised economy and the role and responsibility of both the state and the private sector on the payment market.’ This is very similar language to what has been emanating from the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve – a collaborative approach whereby the state and private sector work hand in hand. It is why these same central banks are now in the process of reforming their payment systems to be compatible with the technology being developed by private firms.

In the spring of 2019 the Riksbank made it known that they had begun the process of procuring suppliers for the development of an e-krona. By 2020 they hope to be in a position where a technical platform for e-krona payments can be developed and tested.

Through their communications the bank have attempted to present e-krona as a means of guaranteeing that the Swedish public would continue to have access to state issued money in the absence of cash. They caution that by not pressing ahead with it, the population would be left to depend on private payment alternatives, which in turn would hinder the Riksbank’s ability of promoting a ‘safe and efficient payment system.’

They have yet to release a pilot of e-krona, but Ingves has raised the prospect that such a currency could conceivably connect to the ECB’s 24/7 TIPS payment network. As with all globalist objectives, Ingves believes that it is necessary to begin progress towards an e-krona ‘with small steps forward and to learn along the way.’ This is no surprise given that gradualism is the preferred model for global planners.

To remain at the forefront of the global monetary system, it stands to reason that central banks will over the medium to long term adopt digital currencies. What many in the independent media fail to recognise is that their apparent hostility to entities such as Bitcoin and Facebook’s Libra project is not indicative of hostility towards digital money. They openly want to digitise all capital, but also want to retain jurisdiction over how it is supplied.

As with other central banks, the Riksbank aim is to work in conjunction with private payment providers, not against them. They propose this within a report published in October 2018, ‘The Riksbank’s e-krona project – Report 2‘:

For it to be practically possible to use e‐krona for online purchases or in physical shops, the e‐krona platform, which contains the underlying register for e‐krona, needs to interact with a number of other systems and agents. Banks and other companies, for example, need to be able to join the e‐krona platform in order to be able to develop and offer payment services to households and companies. 

Within this report the importance of being able to ‘record transactions and safeguard who is the rightful owner of the digital krona’ is also raised. The Riksbank make it quite plain that all digital transactions with e-krona would need to be traceable, and from their perspective this is where the focus should be during development.

Going by one of Governor Ingves’ most recent publications – ‘How to ensure the future of the Swedish krona‘ – if an e-krona becomes a reality, the Riksbank are not going to abolish cash overnight. It will be far more subtle than that. Instead they are pledging that citizens will have access to state money in both physical and digital form, and be able to choose either as a means of payment. They expect that once an e-krona becomes part of people’s everyday existence, they will gravitate further away from cash until it eventually disappears from circulation. This way it looks to the wider world like the natural evolution of money rather than a premeditated plan to make the tangible intangible.

But something else to consider is how Ingves frames the necessity for an e-krona. He stated that ‘it is time to act to secure the future of the Swedish krona.’ A narrative I have picked up on over the past year is that if central banks do not develop cash alternatives soon and governments fail to define what constitutes legal tender in the digital age, it could leave the financial system prone to a widespread currency crisis. Particularly with the expansion of cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and the prospect of Facebook’s Libra. The current crop of fiat currencies – led by the dollar’s role as world reserve – could therefore be in jeopardy. Through the eyes of globalists this would be fertile ground for moving the cashless agenda forward to the concept of a global currency framework, led by the linchpins of the system the BIS and the IMF.

Sweden is a template for where internationalists want to take the world in a monetary sense. As the digital currency agenda widens, do not be surprised if fiat currencies in their present guise become more unstable and susceptible to major fluctuations in value. The onset of crises have been shown over the centuries to be an opening for globalists to advance their goals for a ‘new world order‘. Be in no doubt that digital currencies are a vital cog in that ambition.

6 comments

  1. Hello Steven.

    I am wondering what exactly the legal tender laws are for various countries, and if they all coincide. From what I understand, legal tender is the obligation to accept national fiat as payment of debt. However, I know that for at least some countries, including the US I think, business and commerce are not obliged to accept payment in legal tender, as the sale of items for example, or payment method as another, is not based on pre-existing debt. The main or founding debt of fiat seems to be tax debt, and because that debt is accounted in fiat, and because the various taxes require fiat accounting by business, fiat money use is just about obligatory for the difficulty that creating parallel accounts with non fiat money would lead to.

    So when they say change legal tender law, what actually comes to mind is that something slightly different is afoot. The reason for this is that taxes for example are not paid usually in physical cash, they are already paid by digital transfer from commercial bank digital deposits. Though those deposits can be demanded to be converted to cash, in reality they are not cash. With central bank digital currency, at first sight it would appear that a promise to convert to cash would equally suffice ? A central bank holds, owns, and creates the cash used by society, if an individual has a digital claim to that cash, that digital claim is “as good as cash” , like commercial digital deposits, and obviously more so if the digital claim is directly from the central bank.

    So to my view there is some subtle manipulation going on here, either to crowd out alternative non fiat payment systems, or to find a route to eliminate cash, or both.

    ?

    Thanks and regards.

    Like

    • To better understand what legal tender means :

      ” Legaleze comment: “legal tender” has a narrow technical meaning which designates a method of payment which a creditor must accept if tendered by the debtor. “Legal currency” indicates money which is lawfully issued. Understandably there is much misunderstanding and confusion about this subject. UK law is typically quirky and illogical in this area.
      The legal position is that there are no bank notes having legal tender in Scotland and Northern Ireland, not even Bank of England notes. This does not normally matter in practice because most if not all traders will accept these notes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although acceptance of non-Bank of England notes in England is much more variable.”

      This is for UK, other countries have variants. The concept seems to be that in court a settlement of debt of any kind might, or will be, sentenced in legal tender. Refusal of payment in legal tender by the creditor or claimant renders the debt null.

      This seems to imply that though debt or dues might be contracted in legal tender or other, if brought to court legal tender is the medium used to express payment.

      Naturally tax debt is written in legal tender.

      Business transactions must be accounted in legal tender for tax purposes. This includes barter, and alternative currencies might be considered a form of barter. For example

      https://beavismorgan.com/personal-tax/a-fair-exchange/

      I understand your main concern Steven is the disappearance of cash, one that is shared by various people. Cash may or may not be legal tender, as the case of Scotland demonstrates, although the Scottish pound is apparently tied to the English pound which is legal tender in England. Sometimes certain coinage is used only to a certain quantity. In eurozone there are, or are planned, different obligations that exist concerning the obligation to accept cash. Each country or region has its quirks.

      So the question is if the granting of legal tender status to central bank digital currency is a move to displace cash. Not nescessarily, but I think it has to be taken as such, because the only reason I can think of it needing that status is for in a circumstance where cash is no longer used. That is to say payment in cash will not be the metric in law. Currently cash is only a token metric in various countries because actual cash is not used, only digital representation which is not itself legal tender, but is understood to be equivalent even if technically that would not be fully legally correct. It does however work because cash can be reverted to if chosen, and that would be effective because that cash is legal tender. If you make central bank digital currency legal tender, there is no need or obligation to be able to revert to cash, therefore cash can be eliminated from use.

      When we are discussing cash and legal tender we raise the discussion that exists over fiat, taxation and government spending. Many of us are unhappy in some way with one or all of these, so it is natural to ask whether in defending cash as legal tender we are not contradicting ourselves, even if we agree that the removal of cash and a move to central bank digital currency has negative connotations.

      Let us understand that legal tender does not have to be fiat, it might in law for example be ( and once was ) gold, or any other unit. What is more legal tender could in theory be allocated in all private contract without national statute, as the means of settlement in dispute. This article considers the implications and reasoning for that

      http://jpkoning.blogspot.com/2013/01/is-legal-tender-imposition-on-free.html

      This does not find a means around state authority wanting to impose, and then manipulate, legal tender law. That is naturally tied to taxation and accounting practice, and fiat to banking and the supply of government spending and debt. A most obvious example for UK was the suspension of the gold standard on entry to world war one

      https://www.gold.org/sites/default/files/documents/1914aug6.pdf

      although acts of this nature are common throughout history for all countries, and often include lesser detail on the fineness of coinge obliged, and so on.

      So here we have an example of the crux of where the need for an understandable currency gets appropriated, where national and international politics and social spending, banking and finance, all intertwine to bring us to the current reality, under the auspice of national law, which in theory was voted for by the population. Yes, the population tends to vote for money, and against anything which seems to imply less. So apart from returning to a hard money standard of some kind as legal tender, well for the rest we can dissapear into endless academic and philosophical and political discussion and so on and so on, which people tend to do, and not nescessarily with any kind of acceptable resolution to show for it. Normally gold is the standard of choice, because it carries physical representation, as per cash. A central bank digital currency might be built to a similar standard, up to the day legislatures decide to change that or there is a technical outage, at which point the average person has no say over, and nothing to show for, his account. The mere possibility of being able to change the equation, to increase supply at will, puts tremendous leverage in the hands of potential legislators – they are able to credibly promise the citizen more money, at “no cost” out of “fairness” . This distorts politics. Equally the power to negate supply totally by closing a person’s account is to be dreaded as a reality, given that misuse of such power is standard practice to human nature. People are often manipulative, and the most manipulative find their way to where the most manipulation is possible, it is in their nature and a test of ability at manipulation to reach such positions. We are talking faceless bureaucracy here, behind the scenes power structures, that occasionally originate from or manifest in the public national leadership, but often only manipulate it.

      Maybe easiest is just to leave you with Hayek and his view, because he does not avoid addressing the various inconsistencies that so arise.

      https://mises.org/library/down-legal-tender

      So I hope to just have outlined what is at question here, regarding legal tender law.

      Like

    • Thanks for highlighting this again. Never had this trouble with WordPress before. For whatever reason comments were automatically turned off.

      Apologies for not getting back to your reply from the other day. Just in the middle of catching up on one or two things.

      Like

      • Thanks for explaining.

        No worries for replies, everything in its own time. When I write I don’t always check back for replies either, I try to, but view comments as an open board for ideas – discussion is often helpful but not absolutely nescessary and even sometimes takes the original meaning off track. I think people are inquisitive to read these topics and to just help fill in the panorama is a good enough start, I don’t think anyone is normally going to find the answers they are looking for without having to think it over for themselves anyway. Also just replying makes a person think through and examine their own views, so I’m thankful for that opportunity no matter how it is met.

        Like

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