The Sovereign Money Solution

A Sovereign Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) for New Zealand

It’s time to take back control of our money

A central bank digital currency (CBDC) to benefit all New Zealanders

The Sovereign Money solution advocated by Positive Money is to have the Reserve Bank issue our electronic money as well as our notes and coins.

When this electronic money (called a Central Bank Digital Currency or CBDC) is first issued, it would be spent on infrastructure projects such as hospitals, roads and transport, or new schools, rather than being pumped into an overheated property market as most money is currently.

There would still be a place for private banks. However, they could no longer create money from nothing, so they would have to attract deposits from those willing to invest. In this way loans from the private banks, once repaid would be available to be lent out again, thereby reducing the debt imperative. (This is a version of full-reserve banking and is the way most people think banks already work.)

What are the economic benefits?

The boom and bust cycles would smooth out and the available money in the economy would rise based on increases in production of real goods and services, not on inflation of houses and farms. Unproductive debt would fall. New Zealand would move from a low wage economy to a high wage one.

Governments from the left could use the additional money to increase social services or pay off the student loan debt.

Governments on the right could use it to pay down the Government debt and reduce taxes.

All Governments could use the money to fund desperately-needed infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, roads, public transport and green energy.

We would no longer need to engage in risky offshore drilling or engage in fracking, or mining in our conservation estate to grow our economy – it would grow organically. There would be money for free education, proper schools, affordable health care, tackling climate change and a decent retirement income.

An International Monetary Fund discussion paper endorses a similar solution to the Sovereign Money one.  Here is a quote straight from the paper:

The benefits would be: dramatically reduced public and private (net) debt levels (because money creation no longer requires simultaneous debt creation), better control of business cycle fluctuations, complete elimination of bank runs, output gains of 10% and inflation can drop to zero without posing problems for the conduct of monetary policy.

Monetary sovereignty and a central bank digital currency

One of the most important benefits of the Sovereign Money proposal is in ensuring that New Zealand retains monetary sovereignty. This means that we issue our own currency and that currency is used for most transactions inside the country and accepted internationally. This gives us a lot of control over how we manage and finance our economy and government.

Countries without their own currency have more limited control over domestic prices, interest rates, credit availability, etc and frequently experience currency crises or recessions that countries with monetary sovereignty can avoid or moderate. Examples are Eurozone countries (the Euro is controlled by a pan-European central bank), or those with a currency that is not highly trusted, such as many developing countries for which the US dollar is widely used in domestic transactions and borrowing.

A widely available CBDC is likely to be essential to retaining monetary sovereignty as technology changes the way people want to access and use their money. Innovations such as cryptocurrency and stablecoins are growing in use, along with the potential for global tech firms such as Facebook to reach into domestic economies. This could allow large numbers of transactions to take place within New Zealand that bypass the New Zealand dollar and New Zealand financial institutions.

How wellbeing will improve

Not only would the New Zealand economy thrive, but individuals and families that are struggling to make ends meet under the current system would also prosper.

Young people are saddled with student loans, they are expected to save for their retirement and raise a family. Those that can afford to buy a home will be burdened with a mortgage that will take thirty-plus years to repay.

They will be debt slaves to the banks for most of their adult lives and that is not the future for our children and grandchildren.

The Positive Money solution will provide families and individuals with extra money in their pockets as the economy grows organically without the need for increased debt.  Families will no longer need to choose between food or heating or doctors’ visits or paying the rent.

That is our promise. On a personal level, there will be more money for households and at a national level, we will have a sustainable future where everyone benefits, without the need to engage in risky ventures.

Inequality, families living in cars and child poverty will become a distant memory.

This is not a new idea.  New Zealand has done this sort of thing before. In 1936 the First Labour Government created money and spent it into the economy to finance the construction of thousands of state houses.

Tangible assets were created and people were put into meaningful jobs. Our social security system was implemented and New Zealand emerged from the first great depression sooner and in better shape than most nations.

We can return to prosperity simply by having the Reserve Bank create both our notes and coins and our digital currency. Now is the time for our politicians to seriously reform our money system.

Want to know more?

Read Positive Money NZ’s submission on Sovereign Money and Central Bank Digital Currency, made to Parliament’s Finance & Expenditure Select Committee (Sep 2019).

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