Category Archives: Joseph Muscat

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Five Small Countries Build Solid Foundations with Big Crypto Ambitions

Five small countries are becoming cryptocurrency beacons impacting on the space through growth and innovation, writes Benzinga.

Georgia with its population of 4 million, once a USSR member state, has minimal regulations regarding cryptocurrency with a booming mining community. Ranked at the end of 2017 as second by volume of countries mining crypto by Cambridge University research, much of the success is down to affordable electricity through hydropower.

The future looks bright for Georgian crypto enthusiasts. This affordability means that enthusiastic miners can make a living with low power overheads. Luka Kobeli, co-founder of blockchain company Blockmentor agrees, suggesting “everything about the way the economy functions is going to change” through blockchain and cryptocurrency in Georgia.

Thailand is another of Asia’s countries managing to launch itself into the region’s vibrant blockchain environment. Thailand Post made the announcement that it was to use blockchain in 2017 using a blockchain tracking system. At the beginning, of 2017 the country’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency pushed for legislation calling for the support and use of blockchain-powered smart contracts.

So popular is cryptocurrency in Thailand that education is becoming a priority. Recently, the Thai Fintech Association launched the Cryptoasset Revolution (CAR) course offering to provide participants a complete understanding and knowledge about investing in crypto assets and initial coin offerings in three months of courses running through the summer.

Malta has become increasingly appealing to Bitcoin companies conducting business, not only due to the island’s positive spin on blockchain technology and its open-minded approach to regulation, but also its strong economy.

The announcement that crypto exchange giant Binance has now made Malta home, followed by similar plans from rival exchange OKEX, German blockchain firm Neufundand and gaming platform The Abyss, have received recent media attention, causing over-regulated companies to consider their options.

“I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming. We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy,” maintains Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat.

In Liechtenstein, an entrepreneur can start a company without a bank account, and BTC or ETH will fulfill government requirements. This liberal approach to cryptocurrency is rarely seen; even crypto-friendly Switzerland has its limitations, and banks there have been no friends to VCs.

Yanislav Malahov did exactly that, founding his Aeternity blockchain company using ETH to the tune of CHF 50,000. The capital Vaduz holds monthly blockchain meetings and a huge bonus for residents is the country’s membership of the European Economic Area, but not the EU, allowing crypto businesses to trade freely across Europe.

Nicosia in Cyprus is home to one of the first Universities offering programs in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The University of Nicosia, Cyprus, announced that it would offer the world’s first Masters program in digital currency back in 2013. The postgraduate course was aimed at financial services professionals claiming it was designed to:

“…help financial services and business professionals, entrepreneurs, government officials and public administrators better understand the technical underpinnings of digital currency…”

 

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Malta Banker Association Chair Says Crypto Will Make Banks Obsolete

Marcel Cassar, chairman of the Malta Bankers Association (MBA), has told The Malta Independent that cryptocurrencies may pose a significant threat to banks, possibly making them obsolete.

He suggested that the threat to banking of mainstream cryptocurrency adoption was because “their traditional role as main payment intermediary for funds and currency transmission will become challenged, if not obsolete”.

It is hardly surprising that such comments would originate from a banker in Malta given its current place in the crypto space. Malta has become increasingly appealing to Bitcoin companies conducting business there due to the island’s positive spin on blockchain technology and its open-minded approach to regulation linked to a strong economy. It also boasts the largest cryptocurrency trading volume in the world, according to Morgan Stanley.

Add to this Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat’s recent plans to re-establish several cryptocurrency businesses in his country’s jurisdiction and it is clear that the country is preparing for a future with cryptocurrency. Malta already has pro-blockchain legislation and existing regulations around cryptocurrency, making this announcement an outreach for more cryptocurrency companies to locate in the Mediterranean country.

Cassar sees these technologies as positive for banking in the sense of blockchain offering unbridled and irrefutable authenticity to transactions and documentation, himself describing the benefits as “undisputed”, but sees any major significant changes by banks as still quite distant.

His comments that banks may well be made obsolete as the new technology really takes hold don’t extend to fiat currency. Some banks, he says, are filling a gap and profiting by just simply limiting their involvement to advice to customers regarding ICOs and custody services.

Independent.com refers to many banks’ current lack in innovation and energy in getting on board with the new tech, pointing to ex-Citigroup boss Walter B Wriston who in 1981 commented:

“The belief that a market is yours by some divine right is an old dream. Companies that fail to change become tombstones in the corporate graveyard.”

 

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Malta: The Next Place For Crypto Startups?

Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat has recently revealed plans to reestablish several cryptocurrency businesses in his country’s jurisdiction. Malta already has pro-blockchain legislation and existing regulations around cryptocurrency, making this announcement an outreach for more cryptocurrency companies to locate in the Mediterranean country.

Muscat’s announcement came during a political rally in Mqabba last weekend, where he stated he was in ongoing discussions with potential investors in the sector. The prime minister relayed his interest for Malta to become the initial country to ”take the first step” and have a state-regulated cryptocurrency industry. He noted the numerous jobs that the sector would add to the economy, as well the advantage it would give the education sector for people who wished to pursue a career related to the industry.

Binance are doing it

Meanwhile, popular cryptocurrency exchange platform Binance announced plans to open an office in Malta. In January of this year, Binance produced the highest volume of exchanges of any other exchange platform. In an interview with Bloomberg, CEO of Binance Zhao Changpeng described Malta as ”very progressive when it comes to crypto and fintech”.

Zhao went on to discuss the practical nature of the countries cryptocurrency legislation for businesses, describing it as ”logical and forward-thinking”, predicting Malta to be the next place for innovative blockchain companies to do business. Although not the first crypto company to headquarter in Malta, the transition hit the headlines because of the size and prominence of the company.

The Maltese prime minister made clear that companies would not be establishing themselves in the country for tax benefits, but because of the crypto-friendly legislation and welcoming capacity of the government.

Muscat’s call for cryptocurrency companies to headquarter in Malta follows the implementation of arguably lenient gambling legislation. The legislation executed was thoroughly constructed, successfully making the country an international gambling hub.

Considering the country’s previous success legislation for a strong gambling sector, progress so far indicates they will manage to achieve the same for blockchain companies.

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