MINSK (Reuters) – Belarus has legalized transactions in crypto-currencies, part of a drive to foster private sector growth and attract foreign investment by liberalizing parts of its Soviet-style economy.
President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree on the move on Thursday, his press service said.
Bitcoin, the world’s most popular crypto-currency, has lost a third of its value BTC=BTSP since hitting a record high of close to $20,000 on Sunday, but its supporters dismiss warnings over volatility and say it is the start of a new monetary system not dependent on central banks.
“All smart and intelligent people know what stability and order are,” state news agency BelTA quoted Lukashenko as saying earlier this month. “They’re all trying to reach that shore. We’re prepared to arrange a dock and even a harbor.”
The former Soviet republic, squeezed between Russia and the European Union, is still dominated by the state, weighed down by bureaucracy and inefficient state-owned enterprises, and dependent on Russian money and subsidies.
But Lukashenko, a former collective farm manager who once called the internet “garbage”, has introduced some reforms to improve the business climate and shore up the economy after recession in 2015 and 2016.
Belarus has developed some globally recognized IT brands, belying an image of a country stuck in a Soviet time warp.
The decree is designed to attract digital coin entrepreneurs, who are moving businesses to locations more welcoming to crypto-currencies as they face intensifying scrutiny from regulators over digital currency fund-raising, known as initial…