Stablecoins are unstable. Cryptocurrencies don’t act like currency. Does digital money ever stand a chance of winning the establishment’s embrace?
With the prices of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum and so-called stablecoins like Luna and TerraUSD plunging in value and hurting many investors in the process, that seems unlikely for now – at least not until crypto starts behaving more like traditional currencies, central bankers and regulators in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos told CNN’s Julia Chatterley Monday.
“Bitcoin may be called a coin but it’s not money. It’s not a stable store of value,” said Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Georgieva said some cryptocurrencies are more akin to a pyramid scheme for the digital age because they aren’t backed by real assets. But she said central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) supported by governments can, in fact, be stable.
François Villeroy de Galhau, a governor with the Central Bank of France, agreed.
“Cryptocurrencies are not a reliable means of payment. Someone must be responsible for the value and it must be accepted universally as a means of exchange. It’s not,” Villeroy said, noting that some “citizens have lost trust in crypto” because of the massive volatility.
He added that governments looking to adopt digital currencies must do so in partnership with large commercial banks.
What is the real role of cryptos?
Other panelists wondered what the long term goals of digital currencies should be.
Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, a governor with the Bank of Thailand, said that Thailand has been experimenting in the world of digital currencies. But he said it “has to be clear what problem you want to solve.”
“We don’t want to see it as a means of payment,” Suthiwartnarueput said, adding that cryptos are more of an investment than a medium of exchange.
Villeroy mentioned that the experiment by El Salvador to use bitcoin as legal currency shows how risky it can be to embrace cryptocurrencies.
“I would prefer that El Salvador citizens have access to the euro,” he quipped.
That said, Georgieva noted that digital money can be a “global public good” that can help people send remittances across borders. The key is for interoperability, so that it is just as easy to transfer digital currencies as it is paper-backed currencies like the dollar and euro.
But panelists stressed that it will take time for digital currencies to evolve and become more mainstream for consumers, major financial institutions and governments. Lawmakers in the United States as well as the Federal Reserve are also debating the pros and cons of digitally-backed currencies.
“There is no silver bullet,” said Axel Lehmann, chairman of Credit Suisse (CS).