Bank Indonesia joins global push for digital currencies

JAKARTA, May 25 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s central bank is planning to launch a digital rupiah currency and is assessing which platform it will use, Governor Perry Warjiyo said on Tuesday, as the country sees a digital transaction boom during the pandemic.

Countries around the world are looking at developing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) to modernise their financial systems, ward off the threat from cryptocurrencies and speed up domestic and international payments.

Indonesia has put advancing digital payments as one of its main policy priorities, after seeing a strong rise in online transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Transaction frequency in digital banking platforms jumped 60.3% on an annual basis to more than 570 million times in April, while value rose 46% to reach 3,114.1 trillion rupiah ($217.4 billion), Bank Indonesia (BI) data showed.

“BI plans in the future to issue a central bank digital currency, digital a legal digital payment instrument in Indonesia,” the governor told a streamed news conference, without providing a timeline.

BI is now examining how the digital rupiah will help it meet its objectives on monetary policy and payment systems, including by assessing the readiness of the financial infrastructure, Warjiyo said.

“We’re also, of course, considering our options on the technology that we will use,” he said.

The governor said the rupiah was the only legally accepted currency for payment, and BI will regulate the digital rupiah the same way it regulates banknotes and card-based transactions.

Indonesia bans the use of cryptocurrencies in transactions, but cryptocurrency trading is allowed.

Indonesia will join other Asian central banks, such as Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea, who are working towards launching CBDC pilot programmes. China, which has one of the most advanced projects globally, began city-wide testing of digital yuan last year.

Central banks representing one-fifth of the world’s population are likely to issue their own digital currencies in the next three years, a survey from the Bank for International Settlements showed. ($1 = 14,325 rupiah) (Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy and Tabita Diela; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)