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Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) index report

Focus: Asia region

Extract from PwC Global CBDC Index


A key milestone in the evolution of money

Prompted by technological advances and the popularity of contactless payment, CBDC - a country’s official currency in digital form - is the next big game changer in the world of banking and payments. This report, which focuses on Asia, is an extract from the inaugural PwC Global CBDC Index which was published in April 2021. It provides a synthetic index, capturing the progress of central banks’ in the Asia region, stance on CBDC development and public interest in two distinct use cases:

  • Retail CBDC which are held directly by citizens and corporates;
  • Interbank, or Wholesale CBDC which are restricted to Financial Institutions, principally for interbank payments and financial settlement processes.

Key findings

Retail CBDC projects are more advanced in emerging economies where financial inclusion and digitisation appear as key drivers

The top three projects in Asia belong to Cambodia, Mainland China and Korea. The Bakong project in Cambodia is ranked 1st in Asia and 2nd in the world behind the Bahamas. It is one of two Retail CBDC projects that have gone live. In August 2021, the Bakong project went a step further with the announcement of its Cambodia-Malaysia cross border transactions. It is worth noting that while no date has been given for mass adoption, both Mainland China and Korea have also started their respective retail CBDC pilot programmes. 

Source: BIS Working paper No 880, December 2020 update and PwC analysis. Rebased against an index of 100, and is dependent on the availability of data.

Wholesale efforts are mostly conducted in more advanced economies, with more developed interbank systems and capital markets

Advanced Wholesale CBDC projects have shorter research but longer pilot stages as compared to its retail counterpart. To date, no wholesale CBDC projects have reached maturity yet. However, nearly 70% of wholesale projects are already running pilots with many advanced initiatives. They focus on cross-border projects which allow central banks to test international connectivity and project interoperability. In Asia, notable wholesale projects are Inthanon-LionRock (Hong Kong SAR-Thailand), Ubin (Singapore) and Stella (Japan).

Source: BIS Working paper No 880, December 2020 update and PwC analysis. Rebased against an index of 100, and is dependent on the availability of data.

Vietnam to join global peers in developing digital money?

According to multiple local news agencies, the government recently tasked the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) to research the pilot use of 'virtual money' based on blockchain technology in the next three years. Given Vietnam has been promoting electronic payments since 2008, this announcement highlights that CBDC can further accelerate the cashless payment ecosystem. Although there is no official timeline for the ‘virtual money’ pilot programme, this and other initiatives show the government's openness towards establishing a new type of currency despite previous reservations.

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Get in touch

Vo Tan Long

Partner, Consulting Services Leader / Chief Digital Officer, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Vietnam

Tel: +84 24 3946 2246, ext. 1606

Dinh Hong Hanh

Partner, Financial Services Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Vietnam

Tel: +84 904 178 556