Virtual Assets Bill will transform SVG’s economy – Senator
Government senator, Ashelle Morgan is confident that the virtual assets sector will transform the economy of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), to the point where “we don’t have to resort to selling any passport.”
The senator expressed her confidence in this relatively new sector on Tuesday May 10, as she made her contribution to the debate on the Virtual Assets Bill.
The Bill which was tabled by finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves was one of two Bills passed in Parliament on Tuesday. It received support from Members on both sides of the House.
Morgan said that the virtual assets sector is “extremely lucrative.”
She sees it as having the potential “for economic diversification” in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The ULP senator said that the Bill lays the legal framework for the establishment of a virtual assets sector.
“We are going to be positioning ourselves as an attractive jurisdiction, for the development of a virtual assets sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“The prospects for this are very exciting,” Morgan said in her contribution.
The senator added that given the proliferation of the digital economy in SVG, this new sector will open up more possibilities.
With the opening of the virtual assets sector, Vincentians can now convert their intellectual property, skills, ideas and art, into “tangible assets.”
Morgan further explained that these assets “can be held digitally in the form of crypto currency,” noting that in SVG, “Our human capital is one of our biggest resources.”
“We can capitalise on our intellectual property and our creative imaginations. We have to position ourselves favourably to reap the benefits of this new digital economy,” Morgan stressed.
She said the Virtual Assets Bill was drafted to supervise and regulate virtual asset providers, or persons who buy or sell virtual assets, transfer virtual assets, or offer financial services relating to virtual assets.
This point was also made by the finance minister when he tabled the Bill on Tuesday.
Morgan noted as well that under the Bill, such providers will have to apply and register as a virtual asset provider.
“It is really in the public’s interest to implement this kind of legislation, because with every new industry, there is potential for it to be exploited, and for persons to be exploited within the system.
“These laws will help protect persons from scammers,” the senator explained.
She added that the Virtual Assets Bill “provides the vetting process for people who want to open virtual assets businesses.”
Persons seeking to enter into such businesses will also need to provide a prospectus which will be of benefit to the clients.
Thus, Morgan added that clients will be able to make “more thoughtful and more informed decisions, when entering this crypto space.”
Based on the new legislation, service providers will now be required to do due diligence on their customers.
They will also have to comply with the outlined protocols and will be further required to keep track of their customers’ accounts.
The senator also expressed the hope that the Virtual Assets Bill “will be a greater tool in the arsenal in the fight against money laundering” in SVG.
The new legislation is in compliance with the Financial Action Task Force (FATA) recommendations.
Morgan said, “ we have to get it right, because there are serious consequences if we do not comply”.
She further explained that the FATA has a mutual evaluations process, in which they evaluate a country’s efforts to combat money laundering.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is due for such an evaluation in 2023.
“There are going to be dire consequences if we are deemed uncooperative in mitigating this anti -money laundering threat,” she pointed out.
Failure to comply could see SVG placed on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and also that of the Organisation for economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Morgan said it is a priority of the government to stay off these blacklists.
The Virtual Assets Bill will also aid in the fight against anti- terrorist financing, she noted.
Speaking in support of the Bill Opposition senator, Shivern John admitted that the new piece of legislation is timely and relevant.
The opposition senator noted that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we have to keep abreast with all the changes that are taking place internationally.
She clarified that she did not mean that our own financial banking system is in any form of crisis.
And proceeded to hail the Virtual Assets Bill as “something that is being added to our economic sphere.”
The Owia resident added that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, “we have a very good commercial banking system,” to which, there is no immediate threat.
Further, that while D- cash is highly regulated, virtual assets, as they stand now, are unregulated.
This “opens up for money laundering,” the senator cautioned.
Based on the risks involved with virtual assets transactions, John warned that “we must protect ourselves.”
She also called for public education on matters relating to virtual assets, as some Vincentians are not too “savy” on the issue.
“We must educate our populace as to these changes that we bring to this honourable House.”
The Opposition senator said she hoped that the necessary monitoring will be put in place to ensure that no illegal or illicit activities take place.
The Virtual Assets Bill was passed in Parliament on Tuesday, May 10.
That sitting also saw the passage of the VAT Amendment Bill.