Belarus is joining Russia in developing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC). The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) has announced plans to launch a digital version of the Belarusian ruble for cross-border payments. Dmitry Kalechits, the NRBR’s Deputy Chairman, stated that the introduction of the digital Belarusian ruble is one of the bank’s significant projects. This comes after Moscow expressed a similar sentiment, suggesting that Russia’s digital ruble could be compatible with China’s digital yuan and other global CBDCs. The NRBR already has a definition for the CBDC, considering it a legal tender that performs all the functions of money. The digital ruble would be issued by the central bank and hold the same value as the physical Belarusian ruble.
Belarus’ progress towards a CBDC follows previous plans announced by Pavel Kallaur, the bank’s Governor, to conduct a CBDC “experiment” with a select group of participants, including commercial banks and individuals. However, the final decision on the feasibility of a digital Belarusian ruble still requires presidential approval. Interestingly, Russia’s determination to proceed with its own digital ruble project has influenced Belarus to expedite its CBDC plans. Settlements with the digital ruble would be legally classified as non-cash payments, echoing Moscow’s CBDC legislation.
While Russia has contemplated banning cryptocurrencies, Belarus has been actively attracting crypto firms. The country has established the Hi-Tech Park in the capital city of Minsk, offering visa waivers and tax-free status to overseas crypto companies until at least 2025. In May, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko discussed a CBDC launch with Elvira Nabiullina, the Governor of the Russian Central Bank. Following their conversation, Lukashenko and the NRBR committed to making a decision regarding the CBDC launch by the end of the year. However, it seems that the bank has already progressed further in its CBDC rollout as it aligns its plans with Moscow’s developments.