Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris. SKNIS Photo.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris introduced the Virtual Assets Bill, 2020, a Bill that will help to facilitate the ease of doing business in a cashless society, during the Sitting of Parliament on Thursday.

A cashless society is an economic concept where financial transactions are executed in an electronic format, rather than using banknotes.

“We have now come in this important year of 2020 to ensure that a legislative framework is properly in place to facilitate our engagement in this important industry that is still evolving,” said Prime Minister Harris, referring to the failure to establish a Bitcoin Automated Machine (ATM) due to a lack legislative framework that could properly guide the operation.“Mr. Speaker, whether it is the Blockchain, the Bitcoin or Crypto assets or virtual assets, the commonality is the use of financial technology to swiftly transfer value around the world and expedite the advent of what the governor of our central bank has been describing as the cashless society.”

The prime minister highlighted the industry is expected to bring new job opportunities.

“The fast-evolving Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies bring advantages of speed of economy — because it is relatively cheap — ubiquity and anonymity with respect to their use. They bring new job opportunities also,” he said. “As with any other industry, the creation of a new industry will bring and require certain skill sets to accompany and to facilitate that. So, we expect new jobs, and persons who are technologically savvy would have an advantage in this new sector of engagement.”

The Virtual Assets Bill, 2020, designed to provide for the regulation of Virtual Assets Business from St. Christopher and Nevis and with persons from St. Christopher and Nevis and for related matters, was passed in the House Thursday.

Bill to Allow Federation to Play Responsible Role in Global Market Place

“In my view, this Bill falls well into our programme to make St. Kitts and Nevis safer and deliver a better and brighter future for the people of this beautiful country, and it will allow us as I said before, to play a responsible role in the global marketplace,” he said.

The Minister of Finance said innovations within the financial industry have required countries to keep abreast of changes.

“The global community, Mr. Speaker, has been inundated with the effects of financial innovation which have compelled some countries to make changes to their financial landscape. Such innovation has resulted in the introduction of new technologies, services and products as alternative means of conducting business within the financial services sector,” he said. “These innovations and the result in changes in the financial landscape transcend national, regional and regional borders and have assumed significance and prominence of a global magnitude. In recognition of this fact, the interest of persons in digital currencies has heightened.”

All of which makes the Bill of significant importance, Dr. Harris said.

“This, of course, is an important Bill. It represents part of the long-term plan of our Team Unity Administration to lead St. Kitts and Nevis into modernity and to refurbish its reputation as a responsible member of the international community,” he said.

Bill Moves St. Kitts and Nevis Further Into Modernity

“It is vital at this juncture that we embrace the opportunity to expand our capacities for adaptation to the swiftly changing realities of the technological spheres in which we find ourselves in this 21st Century,” said Prime Minister Harris as he moved the Virtual Assets Bill, 2020 through its second reading in the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Harris said his administration is setting the stage for further development of the financial services sector in the Federation, while at the same time ensuring an adequate legal and regulatory framework is put into place.

“Our jurisdiction under Team Unity will never seek to stifle innovation by prohibiting participation in virtual assets or the services of virtual asset providers but our efforts will continue to be in part on protecting the consuming public and at the same time ensuring that we meet the onerous standards of the international community,” Dr. Harris said.

The provisions of the Bill introduce an application process for the registration of virtual asset businesses. The Bill also requires relevant information be provided at the application stage for due diligence to be conducted on the directors and shareholders of each virtual asset service provider to determine whether they can be considered as fit and proper persons to operate such a business in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Prime Minister Harris said this process is necessary to ensure that criminals and their associates do not have control of such entities operating in the jurisdiction.