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Former Bank of Japan exec says Japan will need years to issue digital yen

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Hiromi Yamaoka, former head of the payment and settlement systems department at the Bank of Japan, said that the country will likely need several years before it can issue a central bank digital currency.

In a Nov. 17 Reuters interview, Yamaoka explained that the BoJ is concerned about a CBDC potentially triggering massive outflows from private bank deposits.

Yamaoka, who now chairs a group of banks looking at building a common settlement infrastructure for digital payments, argued that there is “no point issuing a CBDC if it isn’t used widely,” stating:

“The fundamental question, and a very tricky one, is how to ensure private deposits and a CBDC co-exist. You don’t want money rushing out of private deposits. On the other hand, there’s no point issuing a CBDC if it isn’t used widely.”

In order to mitigate the risks of CBDC-fueled private deposit outflows, the BoJ could consider putting limits on CBDC holdings by a single entity, Yamaoka said. However, such limits could also trigger conversion fluctuations from a CBDC to other forms of money, which would eventually make payments and settlements less convenient, he noted.

Yamaoka also said that the Bank of Japan and the private sector are working together to make digital settlements more convenient. He stressed that the private sector has a “key role to play” in making various settlement platforms interoperable.

Yamaoka’s remarks come shortly after the BoJ published a report on CBDCs, announcing plans to run the first digital yen pilots in 2021. In mid-October, Kenji Okamura, vice finance minister for Japan’s international affairs, said that Japan is not worried about countries like China getting a first mover advantage in the CBDC development. “I don’t think a single digital currency will dominate the world,” Okamura said.

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