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Why Singapore doesn t need Bitcoin, ZDNet

The island will get its very first Bitcoin ATM ter March, but does it indeed need another currency which main appeal is the anonymity it offers, especially since Singapore is reportedly susceptible to money laundering?

By Eileen Yu for By The Way | February 6, 2014 — 03:37 GMT (Nineteen:37 PST) | Topic: Banking

It’s cool, it’s hip, and it’s virtual. Bitcoin has garnered much attention the world overheen, including here ter Singapore where news broke this week that the island will be getting its very first Bitcoin ATM. The question, however, is whether the country needs another currency, especially one that carries with it inherent risks.

Singapore-based trading podium, Bitcoin Exchange, purchased a Lamassu system and is scouting for a location to place the ATM, which will start operation te March. The company plans to acquire more units if request grows, according to Bitcoin Exchange’s director Zann Kwan.

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She told local newspaper MyPaper that Bitcoin buyers ter Singapore presently need to wait at least a day after transfering money, including service fees, to an overseas exchange before they receive their Bitcoins. “This is not cheap and defeats the concept of bitcoin. A Bitcoin vending machine makes it very effortless and safe to buy Bitcoin, and avoids such extra costs and other risks,” Kwan said, pointing to the possibility sellers might default on the transaction.

She told the company had yet to determine from which exchange it would base its rates. “There are a few caf that are accepting Bitcoins now and people are talking about it, but you need a few people to embark the ball rolling, then the momentum will pick up,” she added.

According to Lamassu, an ATM unit is priced from US$Five,000 and can kwestie Bitcoins ter 15 seconds. Another Bitcoin ATM manufacturer, Robocoin Technologies, last month said it wasgoed negotiating plans to bring its kiosks to Hong Kong .

While countries such spil China and Thailand–and possibly India and Indonesia –have outlawed the use of the currency, Singapore has chosen a different route by choosing not to regulate it, but warning businesses and individuals they will trade with Bitcoin at their own risk. The country’s Inland Revenue Authority last month outlined tax requirements for transactions involving the digital currency .

That my government has somewhat embraced Bitcoin isn’t surprising, since it traditionally has bot deemed to be business-friendly. Te its annual report released last October, the World Bankgebouw again ranked Singapore the world’s easiest place te which to do business, suggesting the most business-friendly regulatory environment for local entrepreneurs.

Inherent risks may harm Singapore financial reputation

This friendliness, however, has brought with it global critics who say the nation has become a tax toevluchthaven and hub for money laundering activities.

Add Bitcoin to the equation, and such risks may exacerbate. The currency’s thickest appeal is the anonymity it affords its users, and it is this trait that has led to the associated risks, including money laundering and funding of illegal activities.

Ter a risk assessment examine released last month, the Singapore government said the country wasgoed potentially susceptible to money laundering and terrorist financing, adding that some sectors needed stronger oversight to mitigate such risks. The report assessed 14 financial and 8 non-financial sectors te the country including banks, money changers, casinos, and money lenders. It noted that internationally-oriented and cash-intensive sectors, ter particular, were at risk. “Total banks face higher inherent risks, owing to their large customer volumes and the international nature and the international nature of their transactions,” it said.

Bitcoin also is international by nature, spil is its transactions. Furthermore, its appeal to buyers and sellers who seek anonymity has led to illegal activities and the sale of contraband goods, some of which eventually shut down sites such spil Silk Road and Sheep Marketplace .

It is such risks that have led China and India to warn against the use of the digital currency. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped retailers and consumers from lapping up the currency of the month.

A “cool” novelty for merchants, but not compelling payment option

Some merchants ter Singapore have embarked accepting Bitcoins, including Bartini Kitchen, Squash Passion, Artistry, and Hospoda Microbrewery. I asked fellow ZDNet blogger and restaurant holder ter Singapore, Howard Lo, if he planned to go after suit. Here’s his reply:

“Bitcoin is cool and I think there’s a certain PR value for accepting Bitcoins. The geeky folks, of which there are many ter Singapore, would most likely come check you out just to see what it’s like to do a transaction using Bitcoins.

But is it worth training the staff and implementing the infrastructure to support Bitcoins? To be fair, I don’t know what is needed to actually accept Bitcoins. I imagine it’s just an electronic transfer into the Bitcoin account. But I’d want to figure out if it is worth the tradeoff ter time to support just 1 or Two people vanaf week who might actually pay by Bitcoin.

The fluctuation ter the value of Bitcoins is worrying. There’s the possibility of making a loterijlot just from that fluctuation, but what if the value drops dramatically? Alternatively, do I convert the Bitcoin into Singapore dollars at the end of each night? That could be a hassle.

And how do I display my prices ter Bitcoin? Let’s say a S$15 lunch set. do I switch the Bitcoin price every day since the currency fluctuates so much?

I’m not worried about someone hacking my Bitcoin account, but I will need to look into what zuigeling of Bitcoin fraud happens. Whether it’s a customer perpetrating a fraud on mij or someone pretending to be my restaurant and somehow getting money from someone else.”

Indeed, money laundering risks aside, there remains many questions about the viability of Bitcoin. Why would it appeal to Singapore consumers who already are used to specie, electronic payment NETS, credit and debit cards spil payment options?

Sure, Bitcoin is universal and currency-agnostic, but purchasing te a foreign currency isn’t an punt for Singaporeans who are very familiar with e-commerce. The one attraction ter this case would be the capability to transact te a currency that’s stable so online shoppers will know how much they’re spending and won’t lose out te the local-foreign exchange. But with its very fluctuating and volatile state, Bitcoin presently is incapable to suggest this.

And for the merchants, spil Howard pointed out, there presently are few reasons for him to want to opoffering it spil a payment option.

Te the Sheep Marketplace incident, Reddit user “kyerussell” rebuked anyone for thinking they could get their money back. “It seems that this subreddit is utter of people that don’t understand the fundamentals of bitcoin and somehow think that this’ll result ter people getting their money back. It won’t. That’s the point of bitcoin. You aren’t going to get anything back. None of you are going to get anything back, and it’s by vormgeving. This is EXACTLY how Bitcoin is supposed to work. Bitcoin would be fundamentally cracked if you somehow got your money back.”

And unlike theft of real contant, it remains to be tested if there will be legal recourse for the loss of the digital currency. Spil a ZDNet reader pointed out: “Indeed, I would say it is exactly like black market metselspecie.”

With all the associated potential risks, and many unanswered questions, there is little reason to choose to transact ter Bitcoin overheen traditional payment options. If its value stabilizes, and governments embark recognizing it spil a legal currency with a zindelijk framework for consumers to seek recourse, perhaps then. But, just not right now.

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