Kazakhstan CBDC Tracker

CBDC Information

Economic Information

Monetary Base

$23,121,938,006

Cash Issued

$8,668,088,651

GDP

$220,623,000,000

Country Information

Freedom Rankings

Cato and Fraser Human Freedom Index:

6.4/10

Freedom House Index:

2.3/10

Reporters Without Borders Freedom Index:

4.58/10

Kazakhstan is in the launch phase. On November 15, 2023, the chairman of the National Payment Corporation of the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Binur Zhalenov, made the first transaction with Kazakhstan’s CBDC (referred to as the digital tenge). The CBDC is officially referred to as a pilot by the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, but as the central bank noted, the CBDC is open and available to the public. Therefore, like the CBDCs in countries like China and Russia, this CBDC is considered as being in the launch phase.

Kazakhstan’s CBDC was developed in collaboration with Mastercard and Visa so that it can be used via a payment card. As Mastercard explained in a statement promoting the CBDC’s launch, people are able to use the CBDC card at “retail outlets, online stores, and on various websites.” Furthermore, the CBDC card “can be stored in the consumer's phone, watch, or physical wallet.” The National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan announced that it plans to expand its CBDC to a “wider range of consumers” by connecting more banks to its platform over the course of 2024.

CBDC History and Development

The National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been researching and developing a CBDC since at least May of 2021 when it published its Digital Tenge Public Discussion Report. The report announced plans to “implement a pilot project on retail digital currency, conduct a series of studies to assess the impact of the digital tenge, and [host] several sessions with market participants and international partners to discuss the questions related to digital tenge.”

In June 2021, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan launched its first pilot project. The central bank reported in December 2021 that additional research was still needed to understand the economic and regulatory implications of issuing a CBDC. The report called for the creation of a research hub, a comprehensive economic study, an expanded CBDC pilot, and a regulatory guide. The report also thanked the Bank for International Settlements, the World Economic Forum, R3, Accenture, and the CBDC Think Tank for their assistance.

In July 2022, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan published a decision-making framework for CBDC issuance. The key items outlined questioned whether it is necessary to implement a CBDC in Kazakhstan, what benefits a CBDC would offer, and what risks are likely to be incurred. With answers to these questions in mind, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan then planned to answer how a CBDC should be designed in order to meet its goals and minimize its risks.

In December 2022, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan published a white paper explaining both the progress and goals of the central bank’s CBDC development. The report announced that a CBDC would be introduced in Kazakhstan in phases over three years. The report also states, “The key motivation for [CBDC] exploration was its potential for improving financial inclusion, promoting competition and innovation in the payments industry, [and] thus increasing the competitiveness of Kazakhstan's financial sector in the global market.”

In February 2023, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan presented a report in collaboration with Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange. In the report, the central bank notes that it believes that the success of CBDCs will ultimately hinge on their impact on financial stability and their protection of privacy. For example, in another report, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan warned that its CBDC is subject to 14 different potential cybersecurity threats to its CBDC platform ranging from data leaks to espionage. In the end, the report recommends governments work more with private-sector firms.

In December 2023, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan published a report detailing the results of its latest work on its CBDC pilot. The report explained that the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan worked with Visa, Mastercard, Halyk Bank, Altyn Bank, Banker CenterCredit, and Eurasian Bank to test “CBDC bank cards linked to [digital tenge] accounts” as well as a school-lunch voucher system to provide free meals for students. This latest report found that “CBDC bank cards” were interoperable with other payment options. As for the other test, the report found that using a CBDC for a voucher system “reduces the number of intermediaries, speeds up payments between participants, and reduces the likelihood of errors.”

Human Rights and Civil Liberties Concerns

Kazakhstan struggles with many concerns. The country earned a 23 out of 100 in Freedom House’s 2023 Freedom in the World report. Major concerns, as they relate to the use of a CBDC, include both restrictions on dissenting voices and government corruption.

According to Amnesty International, “Legislation governing peaceful assemblies remained unduly restrictive. It allowed the authorities to arbitrarily ban unwanted protests on vague or technical pretexts, which they routinely did.” In fact, it was reported that Kazakhstani authorities denied permits for at least 154 protests in 2022 and frequently conducted so-called “preventative arrests” of prospective protesters. Freedom House reported that “authorities also use internet blackouts to restrict access to media outlets.” This hostile treatment toward dissenting voices could be exacerbated by the adoption of a CBDC. Across the world, governments have often turned to freezing and seizing the money of activists, political rivals, and protestors to undermine the opposition. A CBDC would make such initiatives easier by allowing governments to take direct control of each citizen’s finances.

“Corruption is widespread at all levels of government,” according to Freedom House. Freedom House goes on to report that “charges against high-ranking political and business elites are rare, typically emerging only after an individual has fallen out of favor with the leadership.” The existence of pervasive corruption is a major concern with CBDCs because it calls into question any promises that might be made by the government to limit surveillance, control, or other risks of CBDCs. Furthermore, the existence of corruption calls into question whether CBDC policies might be designed to exert political favoritism through subsidies, price controls, or other targeted restrictions.

For additional information on concerns regarding violations of human rights and civil liberties, see the following reports by Amnesty International, Financial Tyranny Index, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Privacy International, and the U.S. Department of State. For additional information on concerns regarding the risks of CBDCs, see the following webpage and report by the Cato Institute: The Risks of CBDCs and Central Bank Digital Currency: Assessing the Risks and Dispelling the Myths.

For additional information regarding metrics, the methodology page explains each of the data points and provides their respective sources.