Introducing and issuing digital currencies such as Libra, as planned by Facebook, or Bitcoin without strict legal requirements is viewed critically by most financial market experts: around 88 per cent believe that the use of digital currencies without close regulatory supervision poses a threat to financial stability. This is the result of a special question featured in the most recent ZEW Financial Market Survey conducted with 193 financial market experts. The ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim carried out the survey in September 2019.

Even assuming that a correct regulatory structure adapted to market conditions would be in place for digital currencies, only 45 per cent of survey participants see a welfare-increasing innovation in them. This rather pessimistic assessment is reflected also in the expectations of financial market experts regarding the use of digital currency for the end of 2020 and 2030, respectively.

For the end of 2020, the experts consider the prevalence of everyday payment options with Libra, Bitcoin, or a digital currency issued by a national central bank to be unlikely in Germany. On average, this probability is given by the respondents as 13 per cent for Bitcoin, eight per cent for Libra, and four per cent for a digital currency issued by a central bank. The survey participants attest comparatively that the USA, China, and Kenya (Kenya having been using the digital financial and money transfer service “M-Pesa” for several years now) are each more likely to use digital currencies on a daily basis.

“What is remarkable about these forecasts for 2020 is that the probability of everyday use is the highest for Bitcoin but the lowest for a digital central bank currency, with Libra ranking in between,” says Dr. Dominik Rehse, head of the ZEW Junior Research Group for “Digital Market Design”, who carried out and evaluated the special question. This gradient applies to Germany, the USA, and Kenya, but not to China. “For 2020, the financial market experts attribute a similar probability to the everyday use of a digital Chinese central bank currency as to Bitcoin, the latter of which is already usable today. This is probably based on the expectation that China could issue a government digital currency in the coming months,” says Rehse.

By the end of 2030, the average probability that digital currencies will be the main means of payment is 23 per cent, according to the respondents. The latest statements by the finance ministries of Germany and France criticizing digital currencies seem to have dampened the expectations of the experts considerably.

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20.09.2019

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