Senate passes digital business bill

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By Kadeem Joseph

The digital asset industry will come under greater regulation now that the Upper House has passed the new iteration of the Digital Assets Business Bill 2020, with little debate.

The Senate had returned the first version of the proposed law to the Lower House in May for “substantive” revision after citing several shortfalls.

The Bill will govern the use of blockchain technology and set the framework for the operation of digital asset businesses in Antigua and Barbuda. The protection of the interests of clients or potential clients is also addressed in the proposed law along with several other aspects of the industry.

Leader of Government’s Business in the Senate, Mary-Claire Hurst, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, said the Bill forms part of efforts to diversify the economy.

“We are obviously finding ways to create opportunities for our people because, clearly, our main industry – tourism — has been severely affected by the coronavirus,” she said. “We had a real booming tourism industry for 2020 and beyond but here came the coronavirus.”

She believes it is important to regulate the sector to avoid international sanctions.

“We ought to be aware of our challenges to begin with and if we do not get it right, we will no longer exist,” she added.

Opposition Senator, Damani Tabor, who also spoke on the new version of the Bill, said that the proposed law has been “substantively cleaned up” and is now ready to be passed.

He said, however, there are several cryptocurrency exchanges that either disallow or have onerous processes for Antiguans and Barbudans wishing to conduct business.

Tabor is hoping that with the implementation of the legislation, international bodies and companies will be more amiable with nationals and hopes the government through its diplomatic channels will make such bodies aware of the new standards.

He is also hoping that “funding assistance and other logistical support” will be made available for individuals aspiring to get involved in the industry.

Now that the Bill has been passed by the Senate, it will become law, once it has been gazetted.

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