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Lee Hsien Loong believes that learning the advantages of such technologies as blockchain is the best way to modernise Singapore. It would benefit the country's banks and ensure the Asian city-state stay on the cutting edge of progress.

The Prime Minister mentioned bitcoin and blockchain in his speech on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the United Overseas Bank, a Singapore-based multinational banking organisation with 500 offices in 19 countries. He drew the listeners’ attention to the fact that “blockchain, which is used for bitcoin, can also be used for many other applications like real-time gross settlement and trade finance verification.” The Prime Minister believes that such technologies are essential if Singaporean banks want to secure and expand their influence in the world.

Singaporeans can all be proud of their financial sector, according to Lee Hsien Loong. However, “technologies are moving very fast,” and while “overall our banks are very good in almost every specific area, we can find other banks in the world better than us.” He invited his listeners to learn from financial institutions located in the US, Australia, China and even Africa (apparently referring to M-Pesa). While in his speech the Prime Minister mentioned blockchain only briefly, he also referred to it in his Facebook post:

“The banking industry is entering a challenging period. New technologies like blockchains (the technique that Bitcoin uses) and smartphone payments are disrupting traditional banking. Our banks must keep up with the latest developments and services. They must also groom the next generation of leaders to take the banks and the industry forward.”

Lee Hsien Loong is the highest-paid prime minister in the world, with the salary of US$1.7 million. He has a degree in mathematics and a diploma in computer science. He mentioned cryptocurrency in his public addresses as early as January 2014. At the opening of the Sandcrawler building, Lucasfilm’s new office in Singapore, he greeted his listeners “May the Force be with you” and spoke about new technologies, specifically mentioning computer games that allow users earn bitcoins.

In June 2015 Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), included blockchain and distributed ledgers into his list of big technological trends that affect finance, mentioning that bitcoin payments are cheaper and faster than conventional bank transfers and allegedly equally safe. 

Singapore is a place of many bitcoin startups. CoinFox has already written about Coinarch, Polychemy, Coda Payments and BitX.

 

Alexey Tereshchenko