Global Reserve Currency - Special Drawing Rights vs Bitcoin

Earlier this month, the G20 summit was held in China. One of the more interesting topics discussed, was the addition of Chinese yuan to the SDR - Special Drawing Rights. The topic of SDRs is rather important, but it doesn't seem to be discussed all that widely in the crypto community, so I figured I would cover it today.

Special Drawing Rights

Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were created in 1969. SDRs are allocated to countries by the IMF, and private parties do not hold or use them. The value of SDRs is based on a weighted basket of currencies (currently, 41% USD, 31% EUR, 11% CNY, 8% JPY and 8% GBP, worth about 1.39USD/SDR).

Special Drawing Rights are posed to replace the dollar as the world reserve currency. They serve well as a unit of account (due to lower volatility), can work well in international law (to have an objective measurement of value across multiple countries), and some countries even started pegging their currency to the SDR (due to increased transparency).

While the IMF and SDRs might not be an entirely ideal solution to creating a new, global currency (with US having a veto power and failing to ratify some reforms for example), it might be a step in the right direction.

Where SDRs fall short

While the Special Drawing Rights are an interesting idea, they fall short in a one key area - they appear to be inaccessible for anyone short of a government. This can limit how useful the currency can be for say, creating international settlement, or using it as a measurement of value for corporations or even individuals.

If SDRs were a publicly available and tradable currency, it would be really interesting to see it used for pricing items, wages, etc. to counter currency wars. If your wage is pegged at 3000USD/month, whether USD goes up or down, you're paid the same amount of dollars. But if your wage was instead set at 3000SDR/month, you would receive the same value each month, no matter if it meant you got 2500USD when the dollar is strong, or 3500USD when it was weak. This could give anyone a protection from the government's meddling.

Crypto SDRs

Creating a currency based on a basket of other currencies is also not an entirely new idea in the crypto space either. Paul Grignon (author of Money as Debt) has described his take on the idea as Digital Coin back in 2009. A part of the system, called Perpetual Coin, would initially be issued based on a value of a basket of currencies. Unfortunately, the project never left the conceptual phase, and the website is down now, so it is unlikely we will see it ever implemented...

Other than that, there doesn't appear to be an SDR-pegged cryptocurrency out there. This might perhaps be due to the fact that we already have a better alternative to the Special Drawing Rights - Bitcoin. What it lacks in stable value at times, it more than makes up in terms of being all-inclusive and, at least so far, immune from government influence.

It wouldn't be hard, however, to create an SDR-Coin - it could function like Tether, or perhaps more accurately, like BitUSD since you couldn't exactly withdraw the coin. The main problem for a centralised issuer would be keeping the valuation of the currency stable, especially in periods where the basket of currencies is adjusted. Other than that, once the currency itself is created (and I would almost bet we would see someone make the currency after the article is published - 700+ cryptos is not enough after all), it would be interesting to see it start being used internationally. Perhaps we would finally see what is the real demand for SDRs for corporations and real people, rather than just governments. With any luck, this might just hurry the demise of the USD or "petrodollar" hegemony.


Special Drawing Rights are an interesting take on creating a new global reserve currency. While it is currently only accessible to governments, it could be very useful for corporations and end-users. For the time being, Bitcoin is the most accessible alternative for the rest of us.

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