Monday, July 22, 2024

Fiji elects pro-Bitcoin prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka

A newly elected pro-Bitcoin Prime Minister has taken office in the Pacific Islands of Fiji. The new leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, took the Fijian office on Dec. 24. 

Lord Fusitu’a, a Tongan noble and a former member of the Tongan parliament, took to Twitter to share the news from his neighboring nation. Fusitu’a stated that he had explained to Rabuka step by step “how Fiji can do Bitcoin legal tender like Tonga,” and there could be two “Legal Tender Bills for the Pacific in 2023.” 

Lord Fusitu’a explained to Cointelegraph in Twitter messages that “The new PM is definitely pro-Bitcoin”

“He asked to meet with me which we did via zooms since last year to walk him through step by step, how he could adopt bitcoin legal tender.”

Tonga’s timeline for introducing Bitcoin as a legal tender is public and could pass as early as February 2023. Fiji faces similar economic and developmental challenges to Tonga due to its location and history. However, with almost 900,000 people, Fiji’s population is more than nine times the size of Tonga.

The potential for Bitcoin to improve financial inclusion in Fiji is particularly significant given the country’s geography and economic situation. Located in the Pacific Ocean, Fiji is made up of over 330 islands. It is classified as a middle-income country but still faces significant development challenges, including high poverty rates, limited access to financial services and energy dependence on fossil fuels.

Location of Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. Source: Map

Indeed, the World Bank reports that remittance into Fiji is over 11% of its GDP. Plus, while Fiji’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy reports strong growth in financial inclusion in recent years, just half of the female population has access to a bank account. Bitcoin could act as a tool to improve remittances and bank the unbanked, following El Salvador’s example.

In addition, Fiji may experiment with Bitcoin mining across the volcanic islands. Fusitu’a continued:

“Like Tonga, how to do nationalized Bitcoin mining, specifically how we were going to do geothermal volcano mining so they could both do the same but also make use of their massive hydro and other renewable stranded energy they have, which we don’t.”

Fiji’s 20-year National Development Plan requires that all power on the islands must be generated from renewable sources by 2030. The country requires an additional 120MW of renewable energy to achieve this target. Bitcoin mining could be the lever that unlocks renewable energy gains.

Fiji’s approach to Bitcoin is in contrast to other countries in the Asia Pacific region, such as Vanuatu, which has taken a more cautious stance toward crypto. Until 2021 banned the use of cryptocurrencies, the Satoshi Island crypto project appeared to pave the way for digital asset adoption.

Related: Volcanos, Bitcoin and remittances: A Tongan lord plans for financial security

Overall, the election of a pro-Bitcoin prime minister in Fiji is an ongoing development. It remains to be seen how support will translate into concrete policy, but the potential for Bitcoin to improve financial inclusion in Fiji is significant.

A longstanding Cointelegraph contributor, Lord Fusitu’a explained that Bitcoin could aid with GDP remittance by undermining reliance on costly money transfer services such as Western Union; “Replace commercial retail banking with BTC custody of a citizen’s finances in their pocket on a phone/hardware wallet instead of a commercial bank.” 

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