Libra, Facebook’s recently announced digital currency, says right up front that it plans to help bank the unbanked, and a prime target for that has to be India. But well before it’s even launched, Indian authorities are suggesting that it may not leave the launch pad in their country.
Bloomberg reports India’s Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Garg has specifically indicated that, much like India’s been skeptical of cryptocurrencies, it will also be unwelcoming to Libra. He said:
“Design of the Facebook currency has not been fully explained. But whatever it is, it would be a private cryptocurrency and that’s not something we have been comfortable with.”
That has been the consistent approach of the world’s second biggest country to digital currency. Although there’s occasionally been rumors that the subcontinent would regulate crypto activity, there’s been just as many rumors that it’s looking to ban them entirely. The most frequent topic you’ll find if searching about cryptocurrency in India is typically investment scams.
Add to that India’s frosty relationship with Facebook. Although it is the largest user base for Facebook in the world, with 241 million active users representing 11% of total active Facebook users coming from that country, India has rebuffed Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to coordinate with the populous country. When Facebook offered “Free Basics,” a plan that would provide free access to Facebook and the internet for it’s Indian users, critics accused them of digital colonialism, with one saying, “On the open Internet, everyone is equal. On Internet.org, Facebook is the kingmaker.”
If Libra indeed launches without access to the Indian market, that’s a major blow to Libra. While other regulators are trying to quickly drum up new laws that would protect their citizens, it’s not out of the question for India to ban Libra entirely for its citizens. That would cut off 11% of possible users, instantly devaluing the worth of Libra and creating opportunities for digital currencies that can work to India’s specific needs.
While Secretary Garg noted that India is not comfortable with private blockchains, there is at least one great public blockchain alternative, specifically built to scale massively to the great needs of a country like India, and indeed the world. While Facebook hasn’t had the magic touch to bring India on board yet, that could absolutely be setting up the country to fall into the arms of another crypto who might just have what it takes.
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