Cabinet has approved the first draft of a national strategy to promote blockchain, the technology underlying the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has revealed.
Addressing a conference organised by the financial affairs parliamentary committee, Muscat said that Malta will become one of the first countries in the world to embrace blockchain and that the strategy will soon be put up for public consultation.
“This is not just about Bitcoin, and I also look forward to seeing blockchain technology implemented in the Lands Registry and the national health registries,” he said. “Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard.”
Muscat reiterated his call on the EU to harness the potential of cryptocurrencies and seek to become the “Bitcoin continent of Europe”.
“I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming,” he said bluntly. “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.”
Labour MP Silvio Schembri, who chairs the financial affairs committee, said that his dream is for Malta to become “the Silicon Valley of Europe”.
“We should aim to have the world’s best environment for the development and commercialisation of Fintech models and disruptive innovation,” he said. “The government should ensure that Malta has the appropriate regulatory framework, the right tax system and the best infrastructure to support this ambition.
“With our geographical position and weather conditions, strong financial system, skills base, entrepreneurial spirit and can-do approach, Malta can truly serve as a test-bed for new sectors and foreign firms to test their new technology and products locally.”
He added that if Malta managed to attract a mere 1% of the UK’s Fintech industry to Malta post-Brexit, it would mean an injection of €200 million into the local economy.
Muscat’s speech was welcomed by the Malta Gaming Authority executive chairman Joseph Cuschieri, who said that he will later this year announce plans related to cryptocurrencies in the gaming context.
He said that plans are also in the pipeline to set up a national betting exchange where bets can be hedged, as well as a European Gaming Institute that will provide targeted and sector-specific training.
It also received the praise of Abdalla Kablan, the chief scientific officer of Sixcap, a Singapore-based digital company.
“Malta is well placed to tap into blockchain, as it has fantastic financial services and IT sectors and it’s just a matter of bridging the gap,” he said. “Many in Singapore believe Malta can become the Fintech capital of the world, and we can truly take the world by storm.”
He predicted that the use of blockchain technology will soon explode in popularity, just as the internet did in the 1990s following the introduction of web broswers.
“Blockchain technology will decentralise financial services just as the internet has decentralised the media and information,” he said.