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India Plans to Launch Official Digital Currency

The Indian government announced it will move the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 in the winter session of parliament. The bill will frame rules for cryptocurrencies and will also develop a framework for an official digital currency to be issued by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by December. In January, RBI said it might issue a digital version of the rupee as advancements in the payments sector are pushing central banks to digitalise. Banks around the world are examining whether they could leverage technology and issue fiat money in digital form.

As per the legislative agenda for the winter session of parliament, which will start later this month, the government will allow only certain cryptocurrencies to promote the underlying technology and its uses. The bill is listed among 26 items of legislation for consideration. The RBI has expressed its concerns over private cryptocurrencies, flagging them as a threat to macroeconomic and financial stability. However, according to a news report by The Economic Times, the crypto industry is hopeful there will not be a complete ban on cryptocurrencies. The legislation may stipulate a minimum amount for investments in digital currencies while banning their use as legal tender.

An industry expert explained that while the description of the draft bill appears to be the same as in January this year, several noteworthy events have occurred since then. Firstly, the parliamentary standing committee invited a public consultation, and secondly, the Prime Minister has called for crypto regulations in India. The report added that the government had first listed the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 for the budget session but deferred the move for wider consultations.

A high-level government panel had in July 2019 mooted an outright ban on all forms of private cryptocurrencies. Earlier this year, the government considered criminalising the possession, issuance, mining, trading, and transference of crypto assets, but a bill was not introduced. A media report noted that since then, the government has changed its stance slightly and is now looking to discourage trading in cryptocurrencies by imposing capital gains and other taxes.

In September, El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept a cryptocurrency, bitcoin, as legal tender. President Nayib Bukele recently announced that it plans to build the world’s first “Bitcoin City”, funded initially by bitcoin-backed bonds. Speaking at an event closing a week-long promotion of bitcoin in El Salvador, Bukele said the city planned in the eastern region of La Union would get geothermal power from a volcano and not levy any taxes except for value-added tax (VAT). Half of the VAT levied would be used to fund the bonds issued to build the city, and the other half would pay for services such as garbage collection, Bukele said, estimating the public infrastructure would cost around 300,000 bitcoins.

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