Pakistani Province Planning to Build Two Hydroelectric-Powered Crypto Mining Farms

Pakistani Province Planning to Build Two Hydroelectric-Powered Crypto Mining Farms

It’s just the government not participating right now; people are all over trading and mining cryptocurrencies.

In order to capitalize on the cryptocurrency market, the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is planning to build two hydroelectric-powered pilot “mining farms.”

The cost of the mining project hasn’t been determined yet, reported Reuters, citing a minister overseeing a new government crypto policy.

The country has also formed a federal committee to prepare a new crypto policy.

“People have already been approaching us for investment, and we want them to come to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, earn some money and have the province earn from that as well,” said Zia Ullah Bangash, an advisor to the local government on science and technology.

Federal authorities, however, have to first legalize the sector before it could be formally opened to investors.

Back in 2018, the State Bank of Pakistan said cryptos weren’t legal tender and that they had not authorized anyone to deal in them.

“It’s really just our government that is not participating right now; people all over Pakistan are already working on this, either mining or trading in cryptocurrencies, and they are earning an income from it,” Bangash said.

The idea is to bring this to the government level so that things can be better controlled and online fraud and scams can be prevented.

Pakistan is on the grey list of the global Financial Action Task Force, and cryptocurrency is one of the areas the global money-laundering watchdog has asked them to better regulate.

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Author: AnTy

India To Criminalize Private Crypto Ownership Despite Community Outcry

According to a senior government official familiar with the situation, the Indian government is working on legislation that will see private ownership of cryptocurrencies criminalized.

India’s Crypto Ban Is Still On Course

In a Reuters report published on Monday, an unnamed government official said the legislation banning cryptocurrencies in the country is in its final stages. According to the report, this will see the possession, issuance, mining, holding, and digital assets swap criminalized.

While India seeks to criminalize crypto ownership, the government official said that the government does not have any issues with blockchain technology, the technology behind Bitcoin. He said fines would be imposed and not jail terms in speaking on how the government plans to dissuade private crypto ownership this time around. A 2019 proposed ban had recommended jail terms of up to 10 years for private crypto holders.

The proposed legislation is hugely supported by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) its apex bank. The RBI had imposed a blanket ban in 2018 on cryptocurrencies in the country, making it unlawful to issue, mine, hold, and exchange digital assets for other asset classes. The central bank had cited financial instability occasioned by the volatile digital assets as a reason for the decision.

A Supreme Court ruling overturned the embargo in March 2020, leading to massive crypto adoption. The court asked the financial governing body to provide regulatory goalposts in the crypto space.

The RBI promised to continue its fight against what many in the government considered a “Ponzi scheme” and made another attempt last month, saying the volatile nature of digital assets could pose a risk to investor funds.

According to the financial body, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were a bubble and could affect market sentiments leading investors to invest large portions of their capital. A fall in value could see many financial markets sliding into depression and harming the country’s already fragile economy. The RBI is currently exploring blockchain technology to issue a state-backed digital currency (digital rupee) to combat the rise of cryptocurrencies.

Finance Chief Taking A “Calibrated” Position

But, a contrary view has been aired by the Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman. According to the 61-year-old technocrat, the government is taking a more considerate outlook. Sitharaman made this comment in a separate event saying the government is looking at how experiments can happen in the digital world and cryptocurrency. These experiments would invariably lead the government to take a “calibrated” position on the issue.

Sitharaman further stated that the Finance Ministry would allow a certain amount of “window” for people to experiment with blockchain and Bitcoin as they will not be shutting off all options.

Even though the RBI is under the Ministry of Finance jurisdiction, operates independently from the government body due to how the Indian financial system is structured. The Reserve Bank of India caters to economic activities like monetary policies, issuing the national currency- the Rupee, and regulating the entire Indian banking system.

The Ministry of Finance focuses on macroeconomic policies, public financing, inflation, and the stock markets’ supervision. Their disparate outlook on economic issues has seen disputes erupt between the two Indian finance arms.

Crypto holders may likely be caught up in a show of strength between the RBI and the Finance Ministry, but many investors are still trooping in despite the proposed ban.

The government has said crypto investors would be given a six-month grace period to liquidate their crypto assets before penalties are exerted. But still, crypto exchanges are seeing traffic into the space growing by the day.

With Bitcoin breaking through a new ATH of $60,000 on Saturday, tripling its market value from 2017 after being backed by several institutions, the Indian crypto markets have grown astronomically. Since documented, a daily transaction volume showed 8 million investors holding 100 billion rupees (about $1.4 billion) in crypto investments.

Unocoin, India’s oldest crypto exchange, said 20,000 new investors came on board in January and February despite growing concerns about the ban being enforced.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

U.S. Government Is Auctioning Off 0.7501 Bitcoin

U.S. Government Is Auctioning Off 0.7501 Bitcoin

The US government is auctioning off 0.7501 BTC, currently worth about $40,500 at the rate of 54,000 per Bitcoin.

Currently, the highest bid on it is $25,000.

The U.S. General Services Administration typically auctions the surplus federal equipment to the general public. Its latest lot of 4KQSCI21105001 involves Ford, Dodge, and Chevy sedans, the inoperable Caterpillar tractor, and the 12,000-gallon storage container beside 0.7501 BTC.

It hasn’t been divulged where this surplus crypto-asset came from.

This isn’t the first time the government is auctioning Bitcoin. Back in 2014, the US Marshals Service auctioned off 30,000 BTC that were part of the 144,000 BTC seized from the Silk Road marketplace in an online sealed-bid that drew over 40 bidders.

Venture capitalist Tim Draper was the sole winner of an auction. At the time, the 29,655 BTC had an estimated worth of $18 million, though the winning bid wasn’t disclosed, which is now worth $1.6 billion.

The latest GSA auction is scheduled to be held from March 15 to 17.

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Author: AnTy

Tehran Government Blames Bitcoin Mining for Massive Blackout

Tehran Government Blames Bitcoin Mining for Massive Blackout

The authorities are now cracking down on illegal bitcoin mining operations.

Iranian authorities blame the vast blackouts and “dangerous” air pollution in recent weeks on Bitcoin mining.

A spokesman for the country’s electricity industry said on state TV that power supplies to Bitcoin miners and industry had been strictly limited to meet domestic needs while apologizing for the shutdowns due to COVID-19.

However, one cryptocurrency researcher in Tehran told The Washington Post that such claims are false and blamed Iran’s infrastructure and management problems for the outage.

“The miners have nothing to do with the blackouts,” Ziya Sadr said.

“Mining is a very small percentage of the overall electricity capacity in Iran. It is a known fact that the mismanagement and the very terrible situation of the electricity grid in Iran and the outdated equipment of power plants in Iran can’t support the grid.”

Cities across Iran have been darkened by power outages and are coated in thick layers of smog. Amidst this, power plants are forced to switch to burning low-grade fuel oils to generate electricity as high levels of domestic consumption have resulted in natural-gas shortages, reported the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Household gas consumption was up by 30% in late November from a month earlier, which is further increasing due to temperatures, especially cold this winter, and people staying home to avoid coronavirus infection.

As per the government officials, the outages are compounded by Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining.

This strain on the electricity grid has led the government to crack down on illegal mining operations. About 6,000 machines were recently confiscated in Markazi province.

Crypto mining has been surging in the Islamic Republic, thanks to having some of the cheapest electricity in the world and due to US sanctions on the country that has isolated Iran from global financial institutions.

Bitcoin miners have been consuming 95 megawatts per hour (MWh) of electricity at an ultra-cheap price, said Mohammad Hassan Motavalizadeh, Iran’s head of state-run electricity company ‘Tavanir,’ on Saturday.

In 2019, Iran declared Bitcoin mining legal, but the rise in the prices of BTC has been seeing a surge in illegal operators that led to a crackdown, which is now expanded in the light of power outages.

Last week, Energy Minister, Reza Ardakanian, said miners would be allowed to continue only if the mining farms work under the legal license. Rajab Mashhadi, a spokesman for Iran’s electricity industry union, also said that a total of 1,620 illegal cryptocurrency firms that consumed around 250 MWh of electricity have already been deactivated.

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Author: AnTy

Indian Government Weighs Imposing 18% GST Tax On Every Bitcoin Trade

Indian Government Weighs Imposing 18% GST Tax On Every Bitcoin Trade

This could potentially bring in just under $1 million to the government in taxes.

The Indian government may not be ready to regulate cryptocurrencies yet but it doesn’t want to let go of the opportunity to fill up its coffers by levying heavy taxes on them. Bitcoin transactions are estimated to be around Rs 40,000 crore ($5.45 million USD) annually in the country.

The government is weighing a proposal to impose 18% goods and services tax (GST) on bitcoin transactions that could potentially provide them with Rs 7,200 crore (nearly $981k) annually on BTC trading in the country.

The Central Economic Intelligence Bureau (CEIB), an arm of the finance ministry is the one that has put forward the proposal in front of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC). CEIP has conducted a study on levying GST on crypto assets.

According to local sources, CEIB has suggested that Bitcoin can be categorized under the “intangible assets” class and a GST can be imposed on all transactions.

Earlier this month, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested a crypto trader in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to an online betting racket worth about Rs 1,000 crore ($136.2 million) with Chinese operators.

Back in 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) virtually banned crypto trading which was quashed by the Supreme Court which then asked the government to come with crypto regulation policies last year.

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Author: AnTy

Swedish Government Launches Exploration Into Digital Krona

The Swedish government was one of the first in Europe to explore a possible Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). It has now moved into an exploratory phase, with a panel studying the potential benefits and consequences of digitizing its currency.

Ready to Roll

On Friday, Blomberg reported that the Swedish government had launched a formal review of a possible e-krona. The review will explore the feasibility of moving its currency into the digital standard, utilizing its current digital payments infrastructure.

The Nordic country has one of the world’s most advanced cashless payment systems, and many believe that transitioning into a full-fledged CBDC won’t take as much effort as others. The initiative will be led by Anna Kinberg Batra, a former chairwoman of the Riksbank’s finance committee.

Per Bolund, Sweden’s financial markets minister revealed that the government expects to complete the review by the end of November 2022.

Bolund emphasized the need to ensure that the country’s digital payments infrastructure functions safely and inclusively. He added that depending on the technology’s design and utilization, it could have substantial consequences for its financial system.

The Question of Time

When it comes to CBDCs, most countries are in the exploratory phase. The European Union has confirmed that plans will explore a possible digital Euro soon, with the region looking to bolster digital payments and improve its overall economy.

However, even that effort still seems to be a long shot. The European Central Bank (ECB) believes its exploratory efforts would yield results in 2021, and it will begin drafting the module for the digital Euro then.

Experts from several European banks believe proof of concept for the digital Euro could arrive in the next half-decade. The panel, titled “Upgrading Money to the Digital Age: Introducing Digital Euro,” saw everyone agree that the most pressing task will be getting everyone on board with the specifics of the digital Euro. With that in mind, implementation could take years on its own.

Austėja Šostakaitė of the European Central Bank pointed out that the bank won’t even decide on whether to pursue the digital Euro until the middle of 2021. For her, the primary issue will be introducing the asset into the European financial ecosystem and ensuring that it collaborates effectively with bank money.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

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

Artist Sells Digital Artwork on Gemini-Owned Platform for Over $21K

Asides from its business and government applications, blockchain is also gaining traction in gaming and art commerce.

Blockchain Art for Good

This week, Anthony Pompliano, the founder of Morgan Creek Digital Assets, announced on Twitter that his company had helped an artist sell his work online.

The artwork had been auctioned on Nifty Gateway, a blockchain-based digital art platform owned by the Gemini exchange. Pompliano and his partner, Jason Williams, had independently commissioned the artwork created by 17-year-old artist Fewocious.

Pompliano is so pumped about the digital art market that he claims the industry could have a larger market capitalization than the traditional arts sector in his tweet. While that might not be true, this artwork did sell for a cool $21,350.

The auctioneers had initially planned to use the artwork for relief efforts, with New York still suffering significantly from the coronavirus pandemic. The artist eventually donated a portion of his proceeds to the New York Food Bank, a nonprofit that provides free meals to New Yorkers stuck at home.

NFTs Attraction for Digital Art

NYC Skyline was sold in non-fungible tokens (NFT). While NFTs have been particularly famous for gaming, they have also found a home in the art world.

NFTs are unique digital tokens with individual values that aren’t synonymous with others. They’re rare and indivisible, and they represent specific assets – it could be real estate, event tickets, an in-game item, a real-world item, and even art.

These tokens have been particularly popular in the digital art space as they provide holders with easy ownership of art pieces.

In October, Christie’s, a top auction house located in the Rockefeller Center, Manhattan,  announced the sale of a digital portrait of the Bitcoin code. The deal marked the first time that an NFT was auctioned at a major auction house, and the $130,000 price even exceeded the auction house’s expectations.

Christie’s explained that an unknown buyer had purchased the artwork, known as “Block 21.” The painting contained a physical piece of art, as well as an NFT representing Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. The sale was part of the auction house’s “Post-War and Contemporary Day Auction,” and bidding for Block 21 started at $20,000.

Block 21 was created by Ben Gentilli and the Robert Alice project. It is one of 40 pieces in a series, and it holds precisely 322,048 digits of the original Bitcoin code from Satoshi. The entire series, titled “Portraits of the Mind,” depicts the leading cryptocurrency’s 12.3 million initial digits of code engraved and painted on different circular panels.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

China Stance on Crypto Remains The Same; Blockchain, Not Bitcoin

In a recent report by Chinese state media Xinhuanet, the Chinese government wants its citizens to stop paying attention to cryptocurrency but concentrate more on blockchain technology, the technology behind the cryptocurrencies.

China is emphasizing that the current rise of almost all crypto coins could seem very attractive to investors, which may not be permanent.

According to the media report, the warning is to protect the Chinese citizens and residents from making life-damaging investment decisions. However, it encourages citizens to invest more time and resources in Blockchain technology since it can be applied in various industries.

The past few weeks had seen the upsurge of Bitcoin price, as it moved above its previous all-time high achieved in 2017 when it reached $20,000 per Bitcoin. The same story goes for other cryptocurrencies. Some even tripled in price, representing massive investment profits for the crypto holder.

Bitcoin’s direction is uncertain

Various market analysts have predicted on the recent Bull Run and where the market is headed next. Some have even predicted that Bitcoin’s price could reach $100,000 soon, as market indices show.

However, China is advising its citizens not to throw their entire investment bag into Bitcoin because the market is highly volatile. Generally, the country is known to be a strong supporter and advocate of advanced technology. But this time, the government is making a distinction between blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Based on the publication, one of the reasons for the advice against cryptocurrency investment is that no one knows why Bitcoin is rising fast. As a result, the fall can be dramatic and very volatile for some investors to bear.

The Chinese government has always been very protective of its citizens when it comes to investments. In the shared post, the government described Bitcoin’s price as a “hype,” and the risk f trading on the top cryptocurrency is very high, according to the post.

Different views about blockchain and cryptocurrency

But when it comes to the technology behind Bitcoin, China is well known to be an ardent optimist. It has made concerted efforts to develop its blockchain industry and has gone a long way towards developing it’s Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) system.

The country has already passed the first stage of its DCEP testing. Additionally, China is in the process of developing its blockchain-based network service. Several public chains have already integrated into the network, including EOS, NEO, Tezos, and Ethereum. But it’s the negative stance of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency remains unchanged.

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Author: Ali Raza

Russia Proposes Tax Code Changes; Digital Financial Assets to be Classified as Property

The prime minister of Russia, Mikhail Mishustin, has said that the government is considering categorizing digital financial assets (DFA) as a form of property. Mikhail, who was speaking at a recent Russian government session, noted that the authorities intend to forge a path for a civilized local crypto market. According to a transcript of the meeting, Mikhail acknowledged the growing interest in this emerging asset class, hence the need for advanced oversight informed by law.

Other than supporting the growing crypto industry, Mikhail’s legal propositions are set to protect consumers as well. In fact, the Russian prime minister was keen to highlight that the propositions will help DFA owners to safeguard their rights and interest with a guarantee of proper legal frameworks. He also added that taking such a direction will make it difficult for ‘shadow schemes’ to thrive within the Russian market.

Mikhail’s general sentiment was to amend the tax code to include the legal propositions that would recognize DFA’s as property,

“Let’s make a number of changes to the Tax Code so digital financial assets can be recognized as property, and their owners will be able to count on legal protection in the event of any illegal actions, as well as to defend their property rights in court.”

The prime minister who was appointed earlier this year has been vocal about prioritizing a digital economy’s growth. Previously, Mikhail was the lead of Russia’s tax agency, having to be at the helm for around a decade. His newly appointed role as the head of government comes when crypto assets are a major and unavoidable topic for most developed economies.

Notably, Russia has not been among the most crypto-friendly jurisdictions according to the latest oversight developments that target the operation of crypto assets. Back in September, the Ministry of Finance proposed to criminalize the non-disclosure of crypto accounts. The country is set to enforce its digital asset bill in January 2021, having being signed into law by President Putin.

Oversight Still Ambiguous

While the latest sentiments by Mikhail seem quite bearish for crypto fundamentals, an expert who spoke to Decrypt was of a contrary opinion. Artyom Tolkachev, the CEO of Tokenomica, said that Mikhail’s take had not brought anything new to the table. He mentioned that tax code amendment to feature DFA’s had already been announced some time back. Also, crypto-assets supposedly do not fall within the DFA category,

“It is important to understand that cryptocurrencies are not ‘digital financial assets.’ By their nature, DFAs are more like security tokens, so it is a bit strange that they were considered side by side at a government meeting.”

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Author: Edwin Munyui