British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Great Reset-style plans to introduce a government-backed NFT have been dropped, the Royal Mint announced this week.
Last April, while serving as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the historical name for the UK finance minister, Rishi Sunak laid out plans for the introduction of a “NFT for Britain” to be produced by the Royal Mint and which could be bought and sold online.
Yet, this week the Mint said that its would not be ” proceeding with the launch” after a consulting with the Treasury, however, the government’s Economic Secretary Andrew Griffiths said that the department would keep the idea “under review”, the BBC reported.
NFTs or non-fungible tokens are distinct and non-interchangeable units of data that are stored on the blockchain ledger by computers around the world in a similar fashion to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The technology, which was created in 2014, has seen a rise in popularity in recent years being used as proof of digital or physical assets like a certificate of authenticity.
However, there have been some concerns that the tech may represent a bubble, with some NFTs soaring and quickly falling in value. There have also been some security concerns raised, given that they are prone to theft if not stored properly.
Commenting on the decision to scrap the Royal Mint programme, the chairwoman of the Treasury Select Committee in the House of Commons, Harriet Baldwin said: “We have not yet seen a lot of evidence that our constituents should be putting their money in these speculative tokens unless they are prepared to lose all their money.”
“So perhaps that is why the Royal Mint has made this decision in conjunction with the Treasury,” the Conservative MP added.
The British government is still reportedly set to introduce a so-called “digital pound” or “Britcoin” in the form of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a World Economic Forum-backed project to have governments around the globe transition away from hard currency to a cashless society. Unlike decentralised assets such as Bitcoin, a CBDC, as its name would imply, would be fully controlled by the government, meaning that the state would be able to track every transaction made by citizens.
According to the professional services consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), approximately 80 per cent of central banks around the world are actively considering introducing a CBDC, with countries such as Communist China already introducing a “digital yuan”.
UK Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt said in a statement in February: “While cash is here to stay, a digital pound issued and backed by the Bank of England could be a new way to pay that’s trusted, accessible and easy to use. That’s why we want to investigate what is possible first, whilst always making sure we protect financial stability.”
Yet, some, such as the director of fintech at the Bank of England, Tom Mutton said in 2021 that a CBDC would allow government officials programme into its code the ability to decide what citizens can or cannot spend their digital pounds on.
“You could introduce programmability – what happens if one of the participants in a transaction puts a restriction on [future use of the money]?” Mutton said, adding: “There could be some socially beneficial outcomes from that, preventing activity which is seen to be socially harmful in some way. But at the same time, it could be a restriction on people’s freedoms.”
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