The ‘Cross-Border’ CBDC Program in Belarus is Almost Ready to Begin

In light of Russia’s ambitions for the development of CBDCs, Belarus has announced that it would introduce a digital version of the Belarusian ruble for use in “cross-border” payments.

The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) has reportedly designated the introduction of CBDC as one of its most “significant” initiatives in recent years, as reported by Minsk-Novosti and Interfax.

According to NRBR Board Vice Chairman Dmitry Kalechits: “The introduction and usage of a digital Belarusian ruble at the cross-border level is one of our most important large-scale initiatives.”

Top Russian legislators said last month that their country’s digital ruble “could be compatible” with the Chinese digital yuan and other global CBDCs, echoing similar remarks from Moscow.

Kalechits said that the bank already has a “definition” for the CBDC, which it recognises as “a legal tender that performs all the functions of money.”

He assured the public that the currency will be “issued by the central bank” and “have the same value as cash” in Belarus.

The remarks by Kalechits come after NRBR Governor Pavel Kallaur said in January that the bank intended to launch a CBDC “experiment” with “a narrow group of participants.” Kallaur reportedly told BELTA that commercial “banks and individuals” will participate in the experiment.

But the Governor seemed to hedge his bets at the time, saying that the NRBR had to “decide on the feasibility” of a digital Belarusian dollar.

Kallaur said that ultimate permission must come from the President, adding that this “decision will be made at the level of the head of state.”

In contrast, it seems that Russia’s eagerness to go through with its own digital currency project has prompted Minsk to hurry up its own CBDC initiative.

Kalechits emphasised that transactions settled with the digital ruble will be considered non-cash transactions for legal purposes.

This language is similar to Moscow’s own CBCD legislation. More than a dozen Russian commercial banks are now testing out digital RUB transactions with limited groups of consumers as part of Russia’s CBDC experiment.

Belarus, in contrast to Moscow, which has considered a crypto ban à la China, has been actively courting the crypto industry.

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