Jamaica is looking to boost its economy after the pandemic shutdowns and the government thinks digital currency might be the key.
The country’s central bank, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), plans this year to test its own digital currency, called CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency), and roll it out fully by early 2022, according to Dr. Nigel Clarke, the Minister of Finance and Public Service.
“Jamaica has the potential to become a fully digital society,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted. “This Government aims to transform this country into being much more modern and cutting edge. We must be fully equipped and as efficient as possible in this digital era.”
Unimpressed, a Twitter user responded, “Jamaica has the potential to become a #crimefree, #diseasefree and #povertyfree country.”
Other countries, including several in Africa, have moved forward with digital currency plans or started studying possible transitions.
In 2019, Ghana announced it was considering the move to digital. South Africa’s central bank said it was conducting a digital currency feasibility project and Rwanda was also researching an official digital currency.
Tunisia was the first country in the world to issue a blockchain-based national currency, the eDina, in 2015.
During a speech at Jamaica’s House of Representatives at the annual National Budget Debate, Dr. Clarke said, “We are serious about economic recovery. The prime minister set up the covid-19 economic task force with thoughtful intent, and we are moving assiduously to implement the recommendations,” The Jamaican Observer reported.
“By transitioning to a digital society, Jamaica will recover stronger. We are modernizing the Jamaican economy. The introduction of Central Bank Digital Currency is about embracing reform with ambition, as we aim to recover faster and recover stronger,” he said.
The CBDC will be legal tender and interchangeable with the Jamaican dollar on a one-to-one basis, according to Clarke.
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Jamaica’s CBDC program has been in the works since early 2020. In May 2020, the Bank of Jamaica tweeted that it was researching CBDC internally. In June the bank formally invited interested CBDC providers to “develop and test potential CBDC solutions” for the country, Coindesk reported.
CBDC will be a win-win for all, according to BOJ. It will increase financial inclusion and provide efficient and secured payments, according to the Government of Jamaica’s website.