Forget the „blockchain island“, Malta now wants to become a digital enclave

The Maltese government continues to disengage from its once prominent blockchain agenda, as it intends to take a more holistic approach to the development of the digital economy.

Malta’s Prime Minister tells UN that crypts are the „inevitable future of money“

In a recent interview with Cointelegraph, Kearon Bruno, president of the Digital Economy Think Tank, an advisory body charged with diversifying and consolidating Malta’s economic portfolio, said

„We are moving away from [being] a blockchain island, and more towards a digital island because we believe more in this holistic vision that includes all aspects and components of technology.

According to Bruno, Malta now favours a „global vision“ for its digital economy Bitcoin Storm strategy. The expert group, which was formed in June 2020, includes representatives from the gaming, financial services and information sectors, among others.

In September 2018, Malta’s then Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, presented his country as a „blockchain island“ at the United Nations General Assembly. As Cointelegraph noted, the official rhetoric is becoming less blockchain-centric, while Muscat had to resign due to a local political crisis in late 2019, which led to a cabinet reshuffle.

Malta’s regulator clarifies Binance’s legal status

Beverly Tonna, another member of the panel, noted how the Malta Financial Services Authority established a regulatory testing environment for financial technology companies earlier this week as an example of the new holistic approach. She elaborated:

„The aim is to make Malta more attractive to new businesses. When you are operating within an environment of isolated space, there is more room for customized approaches […] So, yes, we are moving away from cryptomonics and blockchain, and we are looking for financial technology operators now.

However, Tonna noted that: Malta „is not moving away from what we’ve done before“ and „is still very active within the virtual financial assets space“.

If a regulatory framework is not maintained, crypto-currency players will leave the island
The MFSA has not yet issued a license under the country’s regulatory framework for cryptomonies, namely the Virtual Financial Assets Act, which was originally introduced in the summer of 2018.

The slow regulatory pace has led to some crypto-currency companies leaving the island, apparently including Binance, which enjoyed a close relationship with the local government and even held a private event at the official residence of the President of Malta.

Malta denies that two crypto currency exchanges are licensed to operate

Earlier this year, the main crypto-currency agent was summoned by the local control body, which issued a statement saying the platform „is not authorized by the MFSA to operate in the crypto-currency sphere,“ to which its CEO Changpeng Zhao said Binance „is not based or operated in Malta.

At the time, Malta’s Junior Minister for Financial Services and the Digital Economy, Bartolo Clayton, told Cointelegraph that MFSA’s statement regarding Binance did not „mean that the Government has somehow or other introduced a tougher or stricter stance towards crypto, but simply an authority stating facts.

„On the contrary, the Government of Malta is committed to consolidating blockchain along with other specialized sectors,“ he added.