Russia’s Largest State-Owned Bank Introduces Country’s First Crypto and Blockchain ETF

Sberbank, the largest and state-owned Russian bank, has introduced the country’s first exchange-traded fund (ETF) to offer exposure to companies involved in the blockchain industry.

The fund launched by the bank is called Sberbank Blockchain Economy ETF that trades on the Russian stock market under the ticker “SBBE,” Sber Asset Management said in a statement.

The new ETF aims to track the Sber Blockchain Economy Index and provide its investors’ exposure to crypto trading firms, including publicly listed crypto exchange Coinbase (COIN), crypto asset management firm Galaxy Digital, and Digindex, a blockchain software provider.

Besides these firms, the index also covers crypto and mining companies and firms providing consulting services in the industry.

“There are hardly any people left who have never heard of blockchain,” said Evgeny Zaitsev, General Director of Sberbank Asset Management, noting that direct investments in crypto-assets are associated with high risks; as such, they propose to invest in companies that are involved in the development of blockchain technologies than in crypto assets.

The ETF will give its investors exposure to the “blockchain economy without the difficulties associated with the direct development, purchase, storage, and sale of digital assets,” the company said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Russia’s central bank has been vocal about its stance against crypto, with Governor Elvira Nabiullina saying recently that they don’t want people to invest in crypto. Another official called this a “financial pyramid,” saying in no unclear terms that they have a “negative attitude” towards crypto assets.

The central bank also said that it is looking to ban crypto investments in the country, citing their usage in money laundering and terrorism financing. However, more than $5 billion transactions have been conducted in the country annually, said the Central Bank of Russia in its November report.

Like other countries, Russia is also working on a ruble-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC).

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Author: AnTy

Jamaica’s Central Bank Begins Minting Country’s Digital Currency (CBDC)

Jamaica’s Central Bank Begins Minting Country’s Digital Currency (CBDC)

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have become a hot topic in the last year, with Asian giant China leading the charge.

However, Caribbean nation Jamaica is now at the forefront following its roll-out of its first wholesale digital currency in a recently concluded ceremony.

BOJ To Issue $1.5 million CBDCs By December

The Bank Of Jamaica (BOJ) is planning to issue a total of 230 million Jamaican dollars (JMD), worth approximately $1.47 million in CBDCs, to deposit-taking institutions and authorized payment service providers. This, according to the announcement, is part of the digital currency pilot program ending this December.

The first batch of digital currency was minted to demonstrate the process of creating this digital version of fiat. This was done before the Minister of Finance and Public Service Nigel Clarke Jamaica, BOJ Governor Richard Byles, and the management team from blockchain firm eCurrency Mint.

Commenting on the ground-breaking achievement, Minister Clarke highlighted the pivotal role CBDCs play in the creation of a digital economy for the island country. The minister also promised that necessary legislative structures would be implemented to provide a legal basis for the Jamaican CBDC by the end of 2021.

Clarke has previously emphasized CBDC’s influence in helping Jamaica transition into a digital society. He said it could greatly improve financial inclusion by making financial services available to the unbanked population.

BOJ Governor Richard Byles also believes that Jamaica’s next CBDC adoption step would be to ensure widespread access and acceptance by bringing it closer to users.

Also speaking in the ceremony was eCurrency CEO, Jonathan Dharmapalan who commended the nation for its commitment towards creating a more inclusive financial landscape for its citizens. He also noted that Jamaica has the fastest-moving CBDC project in the world.

Jamaica’s Rapid Progress In CBDC Project

Jamaica has been working on developing a CBDC since early 2020. The bank had originally planned to begin its pilot program in May but was delayed due to unstipulated reasons.

Last year, BOJ disclosed that it was researching CBDCs internally and introduced its new Fintech Regulatory Sandbox. The following month, the apex bank formally invited interested CBDC providers to develop and test potential CBDC solutions in this controlled environment.

The Jamaican Central bank then announced a partnership with eCurrency Mint in March 2021. The technology provider was chosen to support BOJ in testing its CBDC solution. eCurrency Mint was also revealed as the major provider when its national CBDC eventually roll-out begins in early 2022.

Other countries have also been picking up the pace of their CBDC research as no apex bank wants to be left behind when it comes to cross-border payments.

Countries like India already have plans to pilot their CBDCs soon. Last month, Reuters reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was considering a phased introduction of its CBDC. The Central Bank of Venezuela is also planning to launch a CBDC in October.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Argentine Lawmaker Mulls Bitcoin Payments for Workers

Argentine lawmaker and member of the country’s Chamber of Deputies, José Luis Ramón, wants workers to get paid in Bitcoin.

Why the Lawmaker Is Proposing Bitcoin Salaries

Ramón disclosed in a tweet that he had proposed a bill that would allow certain workers to have the choice of receiving full or partial salary payment in cryptocurrency if passed.

The proposed crypto bill applies to anyone who depends on an employer for income and workers in the exporting line dubbed “exporter of services,” according to local news outlet La Nueva Mañana.

The idea is that if workers who are into exporting are paid in crypto, they would not necessarily need to convert their income to Argentine pesos as they do with other foreign currencies.

Ramón is one of ten congressmen representing the province of Mendoza. He is also the leader of the Federal Unity for Development Alliance. The lawmaker said he believes that the initiative could preserve the purchasing power of employees while increasing their financial autonomy.

“The idea is that [workers] can strengthen their autonomy and retain the purchasing power of their remuneration. This initiative stems from the need to promote greater autonomy and governance of wages, without this implying a loss of rights or exposure to situations of abuse within the framework of the employment relationship.”

To be approved, the bill must be passed by both the Argentine Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. After this, it is then sent to President Alberto Fernández for final approval.

Argentina’s Stance On Cryptocurrencies Amid Regulatory Clampdown

The proposed bill helps define where the country stands regarding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the market. It comes at a time where many regulators and lawmakers across different countries are trying to regulate crypto.

The US is one of the few countries that’s considering regulating cryptocurrency. Washington began to give crypto a tough look following the recent ransomware attacks on different firms, including Colonial Pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline was attacked in May by Russian hackers, causing the company to shut down. This created fuel shortages in the Southeastern states and led to the company paying $4.4 million in ransom.

On the other hand, El Salvador is one country that has accepted Bitcoin wholeheartedly despite warnings of financial regulators and policymakers who say Bitcoin facilitates money laundering and other illicit uses.

The country recently passed a law adopting Bitcoin as legal tender. This law is scheduled to go into effect in September.

Last month El Salvador’s Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Rolando Castro also announced that the government was discussing whether companies should pay their staff in Bitcoin.

Lawmakers in Brazil and Panama have also implied through their social media that they may push for forms of legislation supporting cryptocurrency.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

China FUD: Three Self-Regulating Bodies Reiterate Country’s Anti-Speculation Stance on Crypto

China FUD Back into Effect as Three Self-Regulating Bodies Reiterate Country’s Anti-Speculation Stand on Crypto

Affecting the cryptocurrency prices since 2013, China banning Bitcoin FUD is back amidst the ongoing market volatility, sending BTC price back in the 42k-46k range.

The price of Bitcoin went back under $42,700 and is yet again at the center of the inner $42k-$46k range, thanks to the same old China FUD permeating the cryptocurrency market.

Despite being as old as nine years, China banning Bitcoin never fails to induce a market sell-off. And that’s exactly what happened after Reuters reported that China is banning financial institutions and payment companies from providing services to crypto-related transactions.

As Qiao Wang of DeFi Alliance noted, “China didn’t just ban crypto. It’s reiterating an anti-speculation law from years ago.”

Three Chinese organizations viz. The National Internet Finance Association of China (NIFA), the China Banking Association (CBA), and the Payment and Clearing Association of China (PCAC) jointly issued a note where it reiterates the country’s previous stance on crypto businesses.

All three of these bodies are self-regulatory organizations and not regulatory agencies. They are reiterating the same old stance because they deem speculative crypto trading in the country amidst ongoing market volatility to be “seriously infringing on the safety of people’s property and disrupting the normal economic and financial order.” The statement reads,

“Financial and payment member institutions shall not provide insurance services that relate to virtual currencies or directly and indirectly offer crypto-related services for their clients, including but not exclusive to crypto-related trading, custody, lending, and settlement; accepting virtual currencies as a payment tool; exchanging virtual currencies with the Renminbi.”

The statement echoes China’s stance towards crypto space in 2017 when they prohibited ICO activities and banned crypto exchanges from offering fiat-to-crypto services, and at the time, they had the same requirements in place for financial institutions to not be involved directly or indirectly with crypto.

Interestingly, just last month, the vice governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) called Bitcoin and stablecoinsinvestment alternatives” as opposed to currencies.

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Author: AnTy

Turkish Lira (TRY) Crashes 15% in a Single Day; Bitcoin (BTC) Starts A Green Week Above $58k

This big fall in Turkish Lira against USD to nearly record low from November has the country’s people curious and searching about Bitcoin.

The price of Bitcoin is on the rise today, going above $58,000 after a drop to just under $55,500 over the weekend.

While it has been a bad weekend for the Bitcoin longs, trader and economist Alex Kruger says, “we are up for a strong week.” From cryptocurrencies, stocks, bonds, to metals, everything will be up while the dollar makes its way down.

His reason for a risk-on week is the stimulus checks that Americans have been receiving since last week. Also, because bonds rallied on Friday’s major negative news, the Federal Reserve declined to extend its Covid-19 capital break-in, which is “very positive for tech, which dominates risk sentiment.”

The Fed said it would allow a change to the supplementary leverage ratio (SLR) to expire March 31, when announced in April 2020; this allowed banks to exclude Treasury and deposits with Fed banks from the calculation of the leverage ratio.

According to some, it could be a signal that the central bank won’t buy $120 billion of bonds a month indefinitely.

However, Kruger said, the concerns in the form of portfolio rebalancing outflows for equities, crypto regulatory FUD re-emerging, and that the crypto curve steepens too fast can hurt the bulls.

Aggressive Moves

The gains to mark the start of the week are coming as the US dollar eases down after surging past 92 level, aiming for an early March level of 92.5, which was seen in late November before that, on Sunday. The greenback rallied on the back of higher Treasury yields following the Fed’s pushback against speculation over interest rate spikes but is having a slight red start of the week.

The US economy is heading for its strongest growth in about 40 years, with inflation expected to jump to 2.4% this year, above the central bank’s 2% target as policymakers pledge to keep on supplying aid, said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

According to BofA, US 10-year Treasury yields could rise to 2.15% by year-end, having revised its target citing “much more aggressive” US fiscal stimulus impulse and rapid vaccinations in the US.

Amidst all this, the Turkish Lira (TRY) crashed 15% on Monday, approaching its record low from November, and dollar bonds sold off following President Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to oust a central bank governor.

Turkish stock index also slipped 9% to a three-month low after the appointment of Sahap Kavcioglu, a former banker and ruling party lawmaker, which sparked fears of a reversal of recent rate hikes. Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of FX at Commerzbank said,

“It may well be that interest rate hikes are once again permitted by Erdogan in a phase of crisis-like lira depreciation, but the recent developments should have shown currency traders that even then a sustainable monetary policy regime change is not to be expected.”

“The calming effect of interest rate hikes has probably been largely destroyed.”

The South African rand has also slipped ahead of the central bank meeting, where the South Africa Reserve Bank is expected to keep the rates unchanged. Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation noted,

“A nation of 82 million sees its currency crash 15% in a single day. No coincidence that Turkey has some of the highest per-capita Bitcoin usage in the world. A growing number of Turks are peacefully choosing a different monetary system that their oppressors can’t control.”

Interestingly, the fall in Turkey’s fiat currency coincides with a surge in Google searches for the term “Bitcoin.” Ever since October, it has been on an uptrend and took a big jump today before normalizing.

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Author: AnTy

New Zealand Digital Asset Firm Launches Country’s First Compliant Stablecoin, $NZD

New Zealand Digital Asset Firm Launches Country’s First Compliant Stablecoin, $NZD

The stablecoin is built on Ethereum leveraging Circle, Coinbase, and Blockchain Labs frameworks. Audit reports on the reserves will be released quarterly, the report states.

Techemynt, a digital asset transaction service, announced the launch of a New Zealand dollar-backed stablecoin, $NZD.

Auckland-born digital asset service provider, Techemynt announced the launch of a New Zealand dollar-backed stablecoin. The Ethereum-based token is fully backed 1:1 with cash and cash equivalents in the firm’s treasury (denominated in New Zealand Dollars).

According to the report, the stablecoin will provide an avenue to digital payments, remittance, arbitrage opportunities across the country. Additionally, $NZD aims to strengthen and stabilize the New Zealand dollar in order to make it “a prominent participant in the global digital asset economy,” it further reads.

Fran Strajnar, Executive Director of Techemynt, said the company partnered with top teams in crypto such as Circle, Coinbase, and Blockchain Labs to successfully deploy $NZD on Ethereum. This will be the first compliant New Zealand dollar-backed stablecoin and will continue to be built “adhering to NZ legal requirements,” he added.

“After nearly a year of development, $NZDs is now first to fully execute and deliver on the promise of bringing a New Zealand Dollar stablecoin to the world.”

To ensure transparency and accountability in issuing the $NZD stablecoins, Techemynt will employ the services of a “leading accounting firm” to provide quarterly audit reports on the state of the reverses to $NZDs issued.

Starting today, the Techemynt $NZD tokens will be distributed directly to customers who wish to acquire $100,000 NZD or more worth of tokens (~$71,300). Users can also acquire coins in the secondary markets through Bittrex owned exchange, Dassetx.com.

However, this is not the first time a New Zealand stablecoin has launched in the markets. Back in 2017, now-defunct crypto exchange, Cryptopia launched its NZDT stablecoin, reported to be backed 1:1 to the New Zealand dollar.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Singapore Government Bankrolls $9 Million Blockchain Innovation Program

Singapore is well-known as a crypto-friendly destination. Now, the government is investing even more in the country’s blockchain ecosystem as it looks to leverage the technology’s unique capabilities.

Bolstering Trade and Expanding Blockchain’s Use

Earlier today, the Straits Times reported that several parties had come together to launch the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Program, an initiative seeking to consolidate blockchain development across companies and industries.

The program was reportedly launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore (ESG), and National Research Foundation (NRF). The ESG, a department in the Prime Minister’s Office, will bankroll the effort, which is expected to cost the government $12 million ($9M USD).

The program will engage about 75 local firms to conceptualize multiple blockchain projects within the next three years. The project will focus primarily on the trade and logistics sector, although developers will need input from companies in the information technology sector as well.

Along with the project development, the program will also focus on improving blockchain adoption in sectors with high transaction rates.

Peter Ong, the Chairman of Enterprise Singapore, explained that the coronavirus had emphasized the need for companies to transition much faster into the digital world. With blockchain, companies can trust applications, thus improving efficiency in areas like logistics, supply chains, and digital identities.

Blockchain’s Increasing Use in Singapore

Lew Chuen Hong, the chief executive of IMDA, also explained that Singapore had primarily seen significant success with applying blockchain to the traditional finance sector. Last month, HSBC Bangladesh successfully issued letters of credit on the Contour blockchain platform following a purchase of 20,000 tons from United Mymensingh Power, the United Group’s Singapore subsidiary.

Md Mahbub ur Rahman, HSBC Bangladesh’s chief executive, described the transaction as a showcase of the firm’s commitment to using cutting-edge technology for supporting cross-border trade.

“I believe this will usher in a new era of routing international trade transactions as businesses and governments recognize transparency, security, and swiftness in performing tasks using blockchain technology,” he added.

As for expanding blockchain applications, Singapore has a blockchain-based payment network running. The network, known as “Project Ubin,” was developed in July by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in collaboration with JPMorgan and investment giant Temasek.

Ubin will focus on improving international payment settlements. It can provide settlements in several currencies, conduct foreign exchange transactions, and settle foreign currency-denominated securities.

Ubin is in its fifth and final development stage, and a final product is expected soon.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Ukraine’s Cryptocurrency Draft Bill Received 67% Approval In its First Parliamentary Hearing

Ukraine has marked another milestone towards the path of crypto regulation, with the country’s proposed draft bill passing its first parliamentary hearing this week. This was the document’s initial debut in the Verkhovna Rada parliament and was passed by an overwhelming 240 votes out of the possible 340. It is now set for a second hearing before the final one, after which it may be adopted as law.

Notably, Ukraine has been making significant efforts to support its growing crypto industry. The country might soon join a short-list of jurisdictions that have already implemented crypto regulations. Unsurprisingly, this Eastern European country was named by crypto intelligence firm Chainalysis as one of the leading countries in crypto adoption.

Ukraine’s Proposed Crypto Draft Bill

This proposed crypto legislation expounds on fundamental operational pillars within the nascent industry; it also presents an oversight approach by its Ministry of Digital Transformation.

For starters, the draft bill seeks to recognize crypto assets as ‘a set of data in electronic form that can be an independent object of civil transactions, as well as certify property or non-property rights.’ Ideally, virtual assets will not be considered as legal tender in Ukraine if the bill is adopted into law.

Other than the detailed definitions to distinguish virtual assets, the bill further singles out digital assets backed by other goods or services. According to the draft bill, this particular class of crypto assets must be taken out of circulation when the underlying ceases to exist.

On the issue of ownership, virtual assets will be deemed to belong to the party that holds the private keys, except for custodial situations and illegal proceeds or those forfeited through a judicial process. Virtual Asset providers also have to be registered and comply with Ukraine’s KYC/AML & data protection stipulations.

A Reprieve for Ukraine’s Crypto Community?

While some stakeholders believe that crypto should not be regulated, Ukraine’s move to join the legally advanced crypto jurisdictions might be a reprieve for its locals. The country has previously been a victim of sudden crypto service halts by big players like Bittrex, who cited uncertain regulatory conditions. Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation is optimistic that clear regulatory frameworks will encourage crypto growth both locally and internationally.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Lebanon to Launch a CBDC in 2021 to Boost Confidence In the Country’s Banking Sector

According to the country’s central bank governor, Riad Salameh, Lebanon is set to debut its own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in 2021. Bloomberg, which reported on this development, cited a Lebanese state-run News Agency, noting that the Mediterranean island plans to make the paradigm shift due to transitioning to cashless networks and restoring confidence in the banking sector.

This comes as more jurisdictions begin to pay closer attention to CBDCs and the possibility of launching country-specific projects to support digital ecosystems. In fact, recent months have seen a spike in CBDC activity by local banks such as the PBoC and international bodies like the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). The latter published its first CBDC series report in collaboration with 7 major central banks.

With Lebanon set to join this bandwagon, Salameh emphasized the need to prepare for a Lebanese CBDC, per the global trends but mainly as a confidence boost to the country’s banking ecosystem. According to the central banker, implementing a CBDC will help increase cash flow efficiency both locally and internationally. Currently, this remains a challenge despite a good chunk of Lebanon’s GDP being complemented by remittances.

Salameh also highlighted that a cool $10 billion is held by Lebanese in their homes, an issue that could be attributed to the volatility of the country’s fiat currency ‘Lira.’ Earlier this year, Lebanese citizens found themselves in limbo after the currency devalued by almost 50% times compared to the dollar. At the time, they took to the streets with the sophisticated citizens opting to hedge against the Lira volatility by buying Bitcoin.

Notably, Lebanon began CBDC talks as early as 2018 but now seems to be in a more urgent position than in previous years. The country’s economy took a great hit this year, forcing local banks to cap withdrawals and increase foreign currency cash flows’ limitations. Previously, the main CBDC motivation was to curb terror financing and money laundering; this later shifted to making payment networks efficient, but now the urge seems to be a confidence boost in Lebanon’s banking sector.

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Author: Edwin Munyui

Australian Senate Sees Blockchain Technology As The Future Of FinTech And RegTech

Australian Senate releases a report on the impact of blockchain technology on the country’s economy, technology status, and regulation technology. Released earlier this month, the 281-page interim report, “Select Committee on Financial Technology (FinTech) and Regulatory Technology (RegTech)”, focused on innovative technologies, laying out the benefits of implementing blockchain technology across the economy.

The interim report further mentioned the myriad of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and the benefits it could bring despite the wave seeming to have already passed.

The potential of blockchain is immense

In a full section dedicated to blockchain technology and associated cryptocurrencies, the interim report mentioned the benefits of the innovative currencies in shaping the future of the Australian economy. The Senate highlighted the potential of the blockchain in growing economic value and benefited a range of industries – financial and insurance services, scientific and medical research, technical and service industries.

“Other areas include healthcare and social assistance, agriculture as well as real estate services.”

The benefits of blockchain technology are expected to translate into financial growth for these industries, the report stated. In the next five years, blockchain technology will help raise an estimated $175 billion annually with a $3 trillion target in the next decade.

Further supporting integration and building on blockchains is Michael Bacina, Partner at Piper Alderman, a fintech and blockchain firm, stated,

“Most fintech and regulation technology projects will either be built predominantly on distributed ledger technology or blockchain or heavily using that within the next 10 years”

A closer look on initial token offerings

The ICO wave seems to have passed with newer and more decentralized methods of raising capital using crypto emerging by the day (tsk, DeFi). However, the report mentioned the ICO ecosystem asking why Australians are not yielding from them anymore.

Highlighting the disparity between Australian and the global ICO ecosystem, Power Ledger’s co-founder and Executive Chairman, Dr. Jemma Green, stated the continental state only contributed to less than 1% of the $26 billion raised in public token offerings. Dr. Green said,

“And so I think there’s a bigger play around capturing the value for those markets in the Australian economy, as opposed to them being based outside Australia. It’s stimulating the fintech sector, providing employment opportunities, and delivering better quality services to the Australian people.”

According to Green, ICOs provides a potentially large industry that would help build job opportunities for thousands of Australians. However, regulations need to be set in place to promote the growth of decentralized capital raises, the report further explained.

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Author: Lujan Odera