National cryptocurrency: A realistic ambition?

After several years of distrust of cryptocurrencies, Moroccan financial authorities seem determined to open the debate on these virtual digital assets held by nearly 1.15 million citizens, according to Triple A, a company specializing in technology. blockchain.

Although their use was officially banned in Morocco in 2017 as a principle of vigilance, “digital currencies” continue to be the subject of growing popularity with Moroccan crypto-investors who place the Kingdom in 9th position among African countries. , according to the 2022 edition of the Triple A report on the adoption of digital currencies in the world.

Faced with the constant recourse of young investors to these highly speculative virtual currencies which present many risks for the uninformed, Bank Al-Maghrib has decided to move the lines by engaging in reflection on a potential issue of a Digital Bank Currency. (MNBC) steered by a committee bringing together all the stakeholders.

While the implementation of such a project implies transforming the use of money under the effect of technology, the Professor of Economics and Finance at the University Mohammed V of Rabat, Hicham Sadok, remains skeptical. about the realization of this “big” site, however unrealistic for cultural and structural reasons which also raise questions about the consequences on stability and monetary policy. “The ambition of cryptocurrencies is beautiful, but difficult to satisfy. Thirteen years after the launch of Bitcoin, they are very little accepted and used for payments. Bitcoin accounts for less than 0.1% of global trading volume”explained Sadok, noting that the root cause of this inefficiency lies in the decentralized management of the currency.

For the academic, who is interested in the issue of crypto-currencies, these impose a cumbersome, long and costly transaction validation process, which makes them financial assets more than currencies. This leads us to draw the distinction between cryptocurrencies as financial assets and central bank digital currencies as legal digital currency, he noted. And to remember that crypto-currencies are private currencies, without legal tender, without any physical or financial backing and totally virtual, which are created, exchanged and circulate anonymously, independently of any regulator.

These are new monetary objects, without real precedent in history. On the other hand, the MNBC on which BAM is supposed to work is an evolution in digital and electronic payment systems with an ultimate objective of producing great gains in terms of transparency, efficiency, encouraging contestability in payment systems and l broadening the tax base, and fostering financial inclusion, Sadok observed.

Nevertheless, continues the academic, the advantages of MNBCs come with concerns about the respect of rights and freedoms, with his opponents who believe that they can potentially exacerbate the ability of certain actors to abuse their power in the world. scrutiny of payments and financial transactions, altering the anonymity that money affords citizens.

Furthermore, on a technical and profitability level, Sadok highlighted the launch of a lot of specialized cryptocurrency funds, which do not necessarily take long positions in cryptocurrencies, but are rather inclined to exploit price differences. and arbitrage opportunities. Crypto-currencies are therefore considered, by some market players, as a new asset class allowing diversification and the search for a better risk-return ratio, he highlighted, noting that they present also a negative correlation with certain asset classes.

During the press briefing at the end of BAM’s second quarterly meeting last June, the Wali of BAM, Abdellatif Jouahri, reported on the work of the dedicated Committee which is working to put in place an adequate regulatory framework allowing to combine innovation, technology and consumer protection. At the same time, the head of the Central Bank announced the promulgation of a bill aimed at regulating the use of crypto-currencies.

Although their use is tolerated in most financial systems around the world, some countries, like China, categorically prohibit the circulation of crypto-currencies, while others only impose restrictions. El Salvador and the Central African Republic are, for the time being, the only two countries to have officially adopted Bitcoin as a state currency.

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