Singapore was one of four “Asian Tigers” from the 1960s through the 1990s. Its crypto strategy is more complicated.
Singapore has seen several crypto controversies recently. In May, Terraform Labs’ stablecoin terraUSD collapsed. A few months later, Singaporean crypto hedge company Three Arrows Capital went bankrupt, taking Voyager Digital with it.
Singaporean crypto was heated before that. KPMG reported $1.48 billion in crypto sector investment in Singapore in 2021. Nearly half the Asia Pacific total that year.
Post-war Singapore was a global economic powerhouse. As one of the four “Asian Tigers”—along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan—it became a model for developing nations to swiftly industrialise and open up to global trade. These Asian nations become contemporary and dynamic alongside Japan.
Asian Tiger growth rates shamed Western developed nations at the time. Singapore’s GDP growth averaged 6.26% from 1976 to 2022. Outperforming North America and western Europe’s most developed economies.
Recent data suggests that the city-state is equally spectacular in the global crypto economy in the 21st century.
According to Coincub, the small city-nation led bitcoin firms in November 2018. The UK, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, and USA followed in order. Coincub ranked Singapore seventh most “crypto-friendly” in Q3 2022. Only Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and the UAE beat it. Crypto activity placed thirteenth.
Considering the central bank chairman’s recent comments, these high rankings may appear surprising. The president of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and former Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, spoke candidly about the crypto ecosystem at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month.
It’s evident that money laundering must be regulated in crypto and traditional finance.
But beyond that, if we’re thinking about regulating cryptos like banks or insurance firms, we have to face a basic philosophical question: does that legitimize something that is intrinsically, entirely speculative, and a little crazy?
Shanmugaratnam’s crypto views reflect the nation’s. Technology is useful in certain situations. In the past year, its government has concentrated on money laundering, terrorism financing, financial instability, and consumer protection. Post-FTX, the latter point is clear and predictive. Singapore, like many other nations, requires crypto companies to obtain licences.
Singapore, like other advanced economies, is more crypto-friendly, to paraphrase Lionel Blue.
The nation is strongly anti-risk and volatility. Its laws differ from those of other developed nations, but they are similar. MAS recommended stablecoin capital and reserve requirements in October. Issuers would be barred from lending or staking.
The suggestions encourage stablecoins as a “credible medium of exchange in the digital asset ecosystem.” From January 2022, cryptocurrency advertising must disclose its high financial risk.
They limit malpractice and high-risk activities while allowing CBDCs and stablecoins.
“In true Singapore manner, rather than say ‘no you can’t do this,’ they’ll create a way for you to do things in as safe and controlled an environment as possible,” says X Marketplace Product Lead Chuang Chin Tuan. He continued: “My view of crypto legislation in Singapore is that the government seeks to protect consumers from themselves. MAS is stringent with crypto service provider licensing. If you desire true freedom and decentralization, you could dislike it, but considering how unprepared people are for crypto investments, this is a necessary “limitation.” This is a compromise, not a restriction.”
The MAS also advises crypto businesses to verify retail clients’ financial literacy. Singapore does not think consumers, dealers, and investors are foolish. But they assume you’re likely. To be charitable, they acknowledge crypto’s complexity. Investors ignore dangers.
At the Singapore Fintech Festival last year, MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon said, “If a crypto hub is about experimenting with programmable money, applying digital assets for use cases, or tokenizing financial assets to increase efficiency and reduce risk in financial transactions, yes, we want to be a crypto hub. However, we don’t want to be a crypto hub for trading and speculating.
Cryptofights for legitimacy worldwide. Singapore is skeptical of crypto investment. Many Singaporean crypto firms told BeInCrypto they are happy with the present regulatory framework.
Raghav Sood, VP of Strategy at Singapore-based crypto exchange Coinhako, says the government’s regulations and frameworks aim to make Singapore’s digital asset ecosystem safer. “As the crypto ecosystem is still relatively immature, it is only natural for regulators to step in and engage with industry actors to enable industry growth and legitimacy and limit crypto risks.”