With interest in central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) at an “unprecedented” level, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is experiencing heavy demand for guidance in regard to them. In response, the IMF planned to release a CBDC handbook, deputy managing director Bo Li said in a recent speech.

The IMF official saw some urgency in meeting the needs of central banks planning CBDCs. Therefore, the organization has engaged with almost 30 countries that requested assistance in the past two years. Over 40 countries had contacted it so far, Li said. He said:

“We believe CBDC capacity development is essential to avoid a digital divide.”

In addition, poor design of a CBDC could to a variety of risks. To address the informational need, the IMF will produce a CBDC handbook that will be “the basis for capacity development,” Li said.

The future handbook was discussed in greater detail in an IMF staff report. The handbook will “mostly be descriptive rather than prescriptive, offering information, experience, empirical findings, and frameworks to evaluate CBDC.”

It will be completed over the course of four to five years, with major funding for it coming from Japan, the report said. It presented a tentative table of contents for the handbook, with 19 chapters divided into broad sections. It touches on both policy and technical issues.

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Meanwhile, as policymakers consider more concrete questions relating to CBDC, the IMF advice has had to become “more tailored to country circumstances and […] more normative and anchored in policy experience and frameworks,” according to the report. The IMF will prioritize assistance for “countries that are systemically important and to countries that are fast-tracking CBDC developments but have relatively high-capacity constraints or weak regulatory standards.”

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