Ban or regulate? Editorial 29th Jul’19 TheHindu

Headline : Ban or regulate? Editorial 29th Jul’19 TheHindu

Details :

Use of Cryptocurrencies  at this moment in a bit shady:

  • Bitcoin, the most prominent among cryptocurrencies, has fluctuated wildly in value, even over short periods of time.
  • As per some analysts, for now, “speculation remains Bitcoin’s primary use case”.
  • Its use in illegal online marketplaces that deal with drugs and child pornography is well-documented.
  • There have been cases of consumers being defrauded, including in India.

World is cautious about the cryptocurrencies:

  • Governments and economic regulators across the world are wary of private cryptocurrencies.
  • As they need neither a central issuing authority nor a central validating agency for transactions, these currencies can exist and thrive outside the realm of authority and regulation.
  • They are even deemed a threat to the official currency and monetary system.

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Few takers for cryptocurrencies in Indian government:

  • Indian policymakers and administrators have time and again made clear their distaste for cryptocurrencies.
  • In his Budget speech in 2018, Finance Minister said the government doesn’t consider them legal tender.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has repeatedly warned the public of the risks associated with dealing with cryptocurrencies.

Recommendation to ban all private cryptocurrencies:

  • An inter-ministerial committee recently recommended that India should ban all private cryptocurrencies, that is, Bitcoin and others like it.
  • The committee even drafted a law that mandates a fine and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the offences of mining, generating, holding, selling, dealing in, transferring, disposing of, or issuing cryptocurrencies.
  • The decision hardly comes as a surprise, considering they have little backing in Indian government.
  • Their existence owed almost entirely to advanced encryption technologies.
  • Committee in favour of Central bank-issued cryptocurrency:
    • The committee while recommending ban on private cryptocurrencies has advocated a central bank-issued cryptocurrency.

 

Is banning the most effective way to deal with cryptocurrencies?

  • The question then is whether banning cryptocurrencies is the most effective way to respond.
  • The inter-ministerial committee believing in ban, and recommended it.
  • China, which India has taken a cue from, has gone for an outright ban.

But it cites countries which haven’t actually banned them:

  • Six of the seven jurisdictions that the committee’s report cites have not banned cryptocurrencies outright.
  • They are regulating them, not banning them:
    • Many of them, including Canada, Thailand, Russia and Japan, seem to be moving on the path of regulation, so that transactions are within the purview of anti-money laundering and prevention of terror laws.

Banning could be ineffective as private traders can use overseas platforms:

  • Owing to the network-based nature of cryptocurrencies, after banning domestic crypto exchanges, many traders turned to overseas platforms to continue participating in crypto transactions.
  • Even in China, trading in cryptocurrencies is now low but not non-existent.

 

Regulation rather than ban could be considered:

  • It is not clear from the report on why an outright ban is a superior choice to regulation, especially in a field driven by fast-paced technological innovations.
  • There should be more debate before government brings in any law to ban the cryptocurrencies, than regulate them.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis
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