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Crypto Countries

Daytona Beach will always have that small town feel of home for me.

I live in a small country (an island to be precise), but I grew up in the small town of Daytona Beach, FL. in the mid-80s. To me, my childhood was filled with the moving image (color no less) of Ronald Reagan filling the TV set every evening and reminding us all of how lucky we are to be living in the greatest country in the world and then when we went to sleep at night, the forces of democracy were fighting to keep the scourge of communism away from our shores. The pledge I recited was the pledge of allegiance, I knew nothing other than my purple mountains and songs of freedom. My land was huge, that it had time zones and where even though we lived in the south, accents started to differ once you crossed the state line. So imagine the culture shock (and not to mention the humidity — if you think Florida’s humid you ain’t see nothing yet) when I returned home to my native Singapore. For the uninitiated, Singapore is tiny. If you mark it on a map, it disappears.

Yet here we were, this tiny island of strivers, punching well above our weight in the world. I arrived home in the early nineties. Singapore was still deemed (on the part of most Americans) to be part of China (we are not) and a spirit of optimism was in the air - that we were going to build this country into an amazing place that would have standing in the world. Almost thirty years later, we’ve achieved that dream and more. We’ve hosted the Youth Olympics, the monumental U.S.-North Korea summit and played as intermediary to a host of other globally-significant, world-changing events. For me, watching my country serve as the backdrop of a glitzy Hollywood studio movie Crazy Rich Asians and finally having people understand that Singapore is nowhere near China every time I return back to the U.S. has been the icing on the cake.

This is what money can buy. For everything else, there’s crypto.

But this is not a bouquet to Singapore, this is a story about how any country or company, big or small can become great. Singapore’s story in many ways is similar to the crypto story.

Last year, scores of relative “nobodies” became famous overnight becoming rich off of crypto. People’s whose names you wouldn’t even be able to pronounce a year ago were appearing in Forbes 30 under 30. Crypto was changing fortunes and now that that genie is out of the bottle, it can’t go back in.

Which brings us to how crypto can change the fate of countries. Living in Florida for so many years, I have always felt that Puerto Rico was the ignored southern brother from another mother. Despite being an American territory, it never had the status of a state. And while it is blessed with white sand beaches and azure waters, those waters and that sand end up deep into the island every hurricane season. Rebuilding Puerto Rico is not only challenging, building the infrastructure that would allow it to grow economically is an exercise in futility. How long more before the next hurricane wipes everything off? With no land links to the mainland United States, who would build a factory here?

But here’s where crypto could come in to change the fate of smaller countries. Today, Singapore is a hub for financial services and the world’s fourth largest financial center. Not too bad for an island that not so long ago a fishing port. But it wasn’t by happenstance. A concerted effort to create the fundamental conditions for us to become a financial center was put in place by the stable government. What’s better than a stablecoin? A stable government. Which is why financial institutions laid their roots down here, started trading and even though the seaport which used to define the island nation still serves a key role in the economy, it’s the financial services which are the genuine driver of growth. A highly favorable regulatory climate, that caters for innovation but maintains a firm hand on the rule of law ensures combine to ensure that Singapore creates the ecosystem necessary to allow our financial services industry to blossom. The same could be said towards the Singapore government’s enlightened attitude towards crypto.

Puerto Rico deserves better.

But back to Puerto Rico. Back in February, Puerto Rico (still reeling from Hurricane Maria) Governor Ricardo Rossello established a blockchain advisory council to support the industry’s development. And because Puerto Ricans aren’t subject to federal income tax, scores of blockchain (read crypto) enthusiasts have been relocating to the territory with their private keys, re-establishing electricity and internet connectivity in some cases and generally providing a shot in the arm which the territory badly needs. But Puerto Rico is not alone in its quest to search out for crypto regulatory arbitrage. Tiny territories such as Malta (Google it) and Gibraltar (Google it as well) have all joined the fray, eager to have crypto either provide a decent livelihood for their citizens, spur a cottage industry or take the lead in the global dominance for crypto customers and businesses. At least for Puerto Rico, another hurricane won’t be able to wipe out a crypto industry. You may not be able to mine any crypto safely, but you will certainly be able to generate crypto income without Uncle Sam reaching down below to help himself to some of your hard-earned crypto.

And that is why I am hopeful about the crypto revolution, because it levels the playing field. Singapore has the advantage of having a strategic location, both for its port but also as a crossroads between the East and the West. Other tiny nations may not have that same advantage, but in the cryptosphere, that advantage is simply not as significant anymore. Crypto does not require a globally connected banking system. It doesn’t need for you to have a banking relationship with a New York bank to clear dollars. All of the entrenched walls which the current global financial system has built up no longer apply to the world of crypto and that’s why the smaller the country, the more they should lean on crypto. It will allow countless other smaller and perhaps landlocked or impoverished countries with large, unbanked populations to be part of a greater global ecosystem, for this reason alone, countries should consider crypto.

Meanwhile in Puerto Rico, former The Mighty Ducks actor Brock Pierce showed up in San Juan with a message, “Blockchain is here to help.”

I think so too.



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Patrick Tan

Patrick Tan


CEO & General Counsel of Novum Alpha, a quantitative digital asset firm catering to accredited and institutional investors.