Shifts in pandemic spending habits emphasize need for digital currency, says BoC

Posted October 14, 2020 1:58 pm

A Bank of Canada official says coronavirus pandemic-related shifts in how people shop means central banks must speed up work on creating their own digital currencies.

COVID-19 has meant more people are shopping online, and foot traffic for brick-and-mortar storefronts hasn’t caught up to pre-pandemic levels for many small and medium-sized businesses.

Read more: COMMENTARY: How COVID-19 is changing our relationship with cash

Bank of Canada deputy Timothy Lane says that shift in spending habits coupled with the speed of technological developments has narrowed the window to deliver a digital currency issued by the central bank.

The comments from an online panel today are a turnaround from late February, just before the pandemic struck, when Lane said there wasn’t a compelling case to issue a central bank-backed digital currency.

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Coronavirus: Bank of Canada Governor says COVID-19 created ‘unprecedented fall in economic activity’

The Bank of Canada has started work on its own digital currency should others become widely used in Canada and erode the central bank’s ability to manage monetary policy.

Lane says today that the bank would have to hold widespread consultations to understand what Canadians would want in a digital currency before the central bank could issue one.

© 2020 The Canadian Press