Myanmar is the latest developing country that is hinting to shut doors in the face of bitcoin, a decade-old global cryptocurrency which proposes to replace banks with a decentralized network of transaction validators and bookkeepers. Anybody with a decent internet connection can participate in the bitcoin economy, which further makes it an attractive asset for people with limited gateways to participate in global economies.
But, to the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM), bitcoin is more a liability than an opportunity. The central bank earlier this month announced that it does not recognize bitcoin as money, stating that it would not allow Myanmarese financial institutions to accept or facilitate its transactions. The same ruling applied to cryptocurrencies having properties as that of bitcoin.
MMTimes.com reports that Myanmarese investors have been increasing their stakes in bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies lately. Local advertising for bitcoin exchanges on social media is at its peak, which is prompting more people to board the bitcoin bandwagon. CBM fears that the process might shift a considerable capital from Myanmar’s own markets to an industry that is not theirs, which is why the central bank is discouraging people from investing in or using bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies.
U Aung Aung, an IT professional working at a multination company in Yangon, told MMTimes that Myanmarese people like him face huge restriction on banking. He admitted purchasing some $20 worth of BTC back in 2017 after finding the cryptocurrency appealing for conducting flawless ‘global e-commerce and aid.”
There are millions of people like Aung in the world that have entered the bitcoin economy for its underlying technological potential. The frenzy went to its peak during December 2017, when the bitcoin market valuation jumped to as high as $313.89 billion, almost five times the current GDP of Myanmar. A massive downside correction in 2018 brought the bitcoin rates almost 85-percent down. Nevertheless, the market now stands near $144 billion owing to an increase in institutional interest in first-tier countries like the US, Singapore, Japan, and Switzerland.
CBM is now left with two options: either it can restrict people from investing in bitcoin like the Reserve Bank of India did, or it can take a proactive approach like Japan or Switzerland to make Myanmar a global hub for bitcoin-related developments.
U Nyein Chan Soe Win, the chief executive of digital commerce platform Get Myanmar, CBM does not have constitutional backing to announce an outright ban on cryptocurrencies. It is likely for the lawmakers to first define bitcoin in legal books before pursuing action against or in favor of the cryptocurrency.
“Before making crypto illegal, its impact on the local currency and compatibility with existing policies should first be analyzed and discussed,” he told MMTimes.com.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.