The World Bank has poured cold water on El Salvador’s adoption of bitcoin as legal tender, saying it cannot support the move due to “environmental and transparency” concerns.
But the developmental body may soon be forced to accept bitcoin payments from countries that have embraced the cryptocurrency.
Its founding document, the 1944 Articles of Agreement, outlines the procedures and principles by which the World Bank pledges to engage with sovereign governments. A central theme in the document is its commitment to accept payments from member states in local currencies.
Section 12 of Article V defines acceptable “forms of holdings of currency” as follows:The Bank shall accept from any member, in place of any part of the member's currency, paid in to the Bank under Article II, Section 7 (i), or to meet amortization payments on loans made with such currency, and not needed by the Bank in its operations, notes or similar obligations issued by the Government of the member or the depository designated by such member, which shall be non-negotiable, non-interest-bearing and payable at their par value on demand by credit to the account of the Bank in the designated depository.
So, as well as allowing payments in “the member’s currency”, the charter allows central banks to pay with “notes or similar obligations” backed by their reserves.
These are effectively IOUs from governments. They can be backed by dollars. They can be backed by precious metals (the US Federal Reserve guaranteed its notes with gold until 1934, and with silver until the 1960s). Or they can be backed by bitcoin; perhaps, in El Salvador’s case, the $150m bitcoin fund being established by Banco de Desarrollo de El Salvador, the national development bank.
Things gets more awkward. Section 9 of Article II states that holdings paid into the bank by members should be c...