Bahamas to provide CBDC access via commercial banks

Bahamas to provide CBDC access via commercial banks

The Bahamas will provide access to its central bank digital currency (CDBC) the “Sand Dollar” through commercial banks to increase adoption, Reuters reported on July 1, citing the country’s central bank governor.

Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas John Rolle said the country intends to establish the regulations within two years and has started signaling its intent to banks.

Rolle said:

“We foresee a process where all of the commercial banks will eventually be in that space and they will be required to provide their clients with access to the [CBDC].”

The Central Bank of the Bahamas reportedly sees the change as critical to raising CBDC and mobile payment adoption rates, even though banks will need to significantly modify their existing IT systems to comply with the upcoming obligations.

Rolle said uptake of the Sand Dollar is still limited years after its launch in 2020, requiring a shift from incentives to enforcement.

Adoption in question

Reuters described low adoption statistics amid the news. It reported that the CBDC accounts for under 1% of the country’s currency in circulation.

Reuters said wallet top-ups fell to $12 million in the eight months before August 2023 from $49.8 million in the same period in 2022, based on central bank data.

Rolle previously described “wide use, but very low average transaction value” in an interview with The New Times on June 19. He said 120,000 mobile wallets exist, equal to 20% of retail bank accounts, but mobile wallets make up less than 1% of retail payments.

Strong short-term data

A central bank press release from February described stronger short-term data. It recognized “modest seasonal growth in digital payments activities,” including the Sand Dollar, even though lower government transfer payments impacted overall year-to-date trends.

The bank said that the person-to-business (P2B) and business-to-business (B2B) transactions reached a combined $4.5 million, mainly involving the Sand Dollars, doubling from November 2022. It said personal wallet counts rose 20% year-to-date in December 2023. Sand Dollars in circulation rose 60.8% to $1.7 million.

Bahamas’ mandatory adoption policies could precede other strategies elsewhere. Reuters noted that the European Central Bank similarly intends to require retail and banks to accept and offer any future digital euro if it proceeds with one.

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