Unmasking Crypto Risks in Emerging Economies: BIS Study

Martin Walker
Aug 24, 2023 at 07:23 am

Digital currencies like Bitcoin (BTC) have shown a remarkable inability to mitigate financial risks, and instead, they have greatly exacerbated these risks within less developed economies. This revelation comes from a freshly published study by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is sounding the alarm on the adverse effects of cryptocurrencies.

Dated August 22nd, a new report titled "Unmasking Crypto Asset Risks in Emerging Economies" has been released by the Consultative Group of Directors of Financial Stability (CGDFS). This comprehensive analysis was conducted collectively by central banks affiliated with BIS, spanning across nations including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. However, it's important to note that the thoughts presented are those of the authors, not necessarily reflective of BIS' stance.

According to the research authors, digital currencies like Bitcoin present a deceptive allure of quick-fix solutions for financial hurdles prevalent in emerging markets. The study emphasizes that these cryptocurrencies were marketed as economical alternatives for payments, pathways to financial access, and substitutes for local currencies within inflation-ridden or volatile exchange rate environments. Paradoxically, instead of stabilizing these economies, cryptocurrencies have escalated financial instability.

The report underscores the need for regulatory intervention in addressing these concerns, ranging from complete bans to controlled management or oversight. The risk of overbearing regulations is also acknowledged, with the study noting that excessively restrictive policies might drive crypto operations underground. The authors stress:

"While the outcomes of crypto-driven initiatives have been unimpressive so far, the technology itself holds potential for positive applications. A regulatory framework that guides innovation towards socially beneficial avenues will remain a formidable challenge in the times ahead."

Of noteworthy concern are Bitcoin-linked exchange-traded funds (ETFs), perceived as a substantial hazard within emerging markets. These instruments could potentially expose less experienced investors to undue risks, subsequently amplifying their exposure. Highlighted among the threats is a scenario where Bitcoin ETF investors face substantial losses despite not possessing actual crypto assets. Moreover, ETFs tied to crypto futures could escalate price volatility and compound risks if they hold a significant stake in the futures market, the report cautions.

Ambiguity shrouds the definition of "emerging markets" within the study, especially as certain regions like China and Pakistan have imposed stringent crypto regulations. Similarly, it remains unclear if these findings hold true for more developed nations.

Though not an official BIS stance, this study underscores the organization's cautious stance toward the assimilation of cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin. A prior report from July reaffirmed BIS' skepticism towards the crypto domain, citing recurring concerns such as the instability of stablecoins and the ostensibly irreversible nature of smart contracts.

In contrast, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) received commendation from the BIS. The organization views CBDCs as a foundational element with the potential to shape the future monetary landscape, serving as a launchpad for subsequent innovations.

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