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Reserve Bank of India Says Bitcoin Is Not A Currency, Couldn’t Be More Wrong

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has declared that Bitcoin is not a currency in an affidavit to the Indian Supreme Court, during an ongoing legal battle regarding the ban on banks from facilitating any crypto-related activity in India. The Reserve Bank of India is completely wrong.

Specifically, the affidavit says “It is submitted that crypto-currencies fall short of being true currencies. It is further submitted that RBI does not consider virtual currencies such as Bitcoins as ‘currency’ under the extant laws. There are no enabling provisions under the extant law to treat Bitcoin as currency”. The RBI further argues that Bitcoin can’t be a currency because it has no physical form, and aren’t issued by the RBI.

The RBI could not be more wrong. Bitcoin has an excellent track record as a currency, it can be used to buy or sell anything in the world, and transactions sent with Bitcoin are instant and cryptographically secure. Combined with very low fees to send Bitcoin transactions, Bitcoin is actually better than fiat for international finance due to its speed and security. Bitcoin has 99.9% uptime and success when sending transactions, and is very reliable when used as a currency.

The RBI has led a month-long battle to stomp out Bitcoin and crypto in India, and they have succeeded at getting banks to stop offering accounts to crypto exchanges and traders. However, since Bitcoin itself is still legal in India, peer to peer Bitcoin dealing has proliferated across the country. It would probably be best for India to classify and regulate Bitcoin, like most other countries, instead of driving it underground where they have no control over it at all.

In reality, the RBI likely feels threatened by Bitcoin, since it is the first decentralized currency to spread across India, and is rapidly gaining value and use. This is unlike the Indian Rupee (INR), which has been experiencing massive inflation rates. The exchange rate has gone from INR 63 per USD to INR 72 per USD so far during 2018, yielding an annual inflation rate of 19% per year.

This inflation rate is approaching the hyper-inflation threshold, and as seen in other nations like Venezuela and Zimbabwe, once inflation begins increasing to double digits it usually continues to accelerate until ultimately a currency collapse occurs. Right now, the RBI’s biggest problem is the threat of a currency collapse, and they likely think capital outflows into the Bitcoin market will worsen the situation, which is why they are trying to make it illegal.

The collapse of fiat currencies like the INR may be inevitable, and it would be much better for India if Bitcoin stays legal so the country can adopt it over time, so the Indian financial system will still be functional in the event of a fiat collapse.

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India Considers Rupee-Backed Digital Currency to Combat Rising Fiat Cost

The Reserve Bank of India’s study to look at the feasibility of introducing a rupee-backed central bank digital currency was driven by the burden of current rising costs in printing paper fiat money.

The RBI suggests that there may be pressure put on other banks globally, particularly with the rise in interest in digital currencies for banking purposes. However, electronic fraud remains a concern, according to Financial Services company EY India. Company representative Manesh Makhia suggested, “The idea of a central bank-issued digital currency is very promising though issues around digital counterfeiting will need to be addressed.”

The Reserve Bank of India’s inter-departmental group, the first of its kind to look at digital currency in terms of banking, is all the more relevant given the recent RBI annual report findings released this week. It showed that 99.3% of the total demonetized money had been returned to the bank, leaving just over INR 100 billion (USD 141 million) in the market. The report noted:

“(Globally) the rising costs of managing fiat paper/metallic money, have led central banks around the world to explore the option of introducing fiat digital currencies.”

There are speculations that RBI may be considering a rupee-backed currency to overcome the exorbitant costs of printing paper money, although the bank’s interdepartmental group will also be looking at both blockchain and artificial intelligence and how these can be integrated into the banking system. A source suggested:

“As a regulator, the RBI also has to explore new emerging areas to check what can be adopted and what cannot. A central bank has to be on top to create regulations. This new unit is on an experimental basis and will evolve as time passes.”

It hasn’t been a happy few months in India for crypto traders though, who have been hit hard by RBI’s instructions earlier this year prohibiting financial institutions in India from providing cryptocurrency services, a ban which is currently being challenged in the country’s highest court.

Late last year, RBI announced it was looking into the possibility of a fiat cryptocurrency; the “Lakshmi coin”, named after the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

 

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Economic Turmoil In Pakistan Could Free Up Cryptocurrency Adoption

Soon to be prime minister, former Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan will be challenged to address the country’s current economic woes, which some have predicted may increase cryptocurrency usage.

An economic crisis is predicted in Pakistan on the eve of a major shift in the political landscape. The Pakistani rupee has depreciated 15 percent against the US dollar in recent months and the country’s net international reserves are now in negative figures. Meanwhile, the demand for dollars for imports exceeds Pakistan’s capacity to earn them through exports.

Amongst this turbulent financial climate, according to Forbes, LocalBitcoins trading volumes are on the increase which is reportedly a reflection of the cryptocurrency markets on the whole in Pakistan, partly fuelled by economic uncertainty and a increased confidence in Bitcoin.

Although Khan’s position is all but sealed, Gareth Leather, the senior Asia economist at Capital Economics suggests it matters very little who actually takes the reigns:

“Whichever party wins Pakistan’s upcoming general election will take over an economy on the brink of a balance of payments crisis. Growth is likely to slow sharply regardless of who wins Wednesday’s election.”

The fact that Pakistan’s Central Bank is curbing access for many Pakistani citizens to US dollars and pressuring fiat currencies means that over time cryptocurrencies will appear more attractive in the way that they have in many other countries with failing economies, such as Venezuela.

One of Pakistan’s first privately generated cryptocurrencies was Pakcoin which has been accepted as a mode of payment in various institutions since its conception over two years ago. In fact, it is said to be the first digital currency accepted by any Asian hospital. Ten retailers now use it in the country so that their customers can pay for goods and services using crypto.

To date, Pakistan has warned banks against ICO’s and cryptocurrencies in general with a statement to that effect in April of this year.

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Jonathan Stacke – Bitcoin in India

Jonathan Stacke – Bitcoin in India:

Jonathan Stacke writes on Bitcoin in India for his latest article on The Genesis Block (@TheGenesisBlock). Excerpts:

“With talk of inflation and capital controls familiar to the bitcoin community, one might think Indian citizens would be jumping at the opportunity to adopt the digital currency, yet the hurdles to wide-scale bitcoin proliferation in India may be significant for the foreseeable future. While demand for gold has grown in India, the multiple applications it offers culturally and industrially in addition to acting as an alternative store of wealth may mean that such demand does not translate to bitcoin.”

“[A correlation exists] between bitcoin adoption and internet penetration in a given country. India, with just 12.6% of its citizens having internet access, has the sixth lowest internet penetration of the 100 largest countries. Despite that fact, the size of the total Indian population – more than 1.2 billion – makes India the third largest internet-using population in the world, with 150 million users, behind only China and the US.”

“It is possible to buy and sell bitcoin through a number of websites including buysellbitco.in and there does appear to be a healthy LocalBitcoins market.”

“Not to be overlooked is India’s mobile phone penetration of 71%, or approximately 900 million total users. […] only 44 million Indians are smartphone subscribers.”

“M-PESA, the mobile payment system that has changed the lives of millions in Kenya recently rolled out in India. […] If mobile payment systems like these gain traction in India as they have in Africa, acceptance of digital currency would prove to be a less significant hurdle.”

“India had the highest remittance volume in the world in 2011 with $58 billion, or 3.1% of GDP, according to the World Bank.”

“Forward-thinking companies like Buttercoin have recently stepped in to apply the potential of bitcoin to these markets […]”

“The Reserve Bank of India has stated that it does not immediately intend to regulate bitcoin, but their historic actions indicate that may change soon enough […]”

 – http://thegenesisblock.com/bitcoin-in-india-drivers-and-barriers-to-adoption
 – (Further discussion of this article)

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