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Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021

Bitcoin Island: Welcome to the world's first crypto-enabled community

Bitcoin Island: Welcome to the world's first crypto-enabled community

Using cryptocurrencies to buy everything from villas to beers, the island of Bequia is set to become home to a fully Bitcoin-enabled community.

Just over 18 square kilometres in size, the paradise island of Bequia (pronounced ‘Bekway’) is off-grid when it comes to most visitors to the Caribbean, except for celebrities and the odd member of the British royal family.

But attention is set to be firmly focused on the second-largest island of the Grenadines archipelago as it becomes home to the world's first fully Bitcoin-enabled community.

The One Bequia development, where 39 luxury villas are set to be built, will be the first of its kind in the Caribbean to accept Bitcoin as payment for the properties.

Bitcoin will also be accepted as payment for everyday essentials at the development's grocery store as well as at its restaurant, café, and cinema.

'Response to very real challenges'


According to the property developers, the acceptance of cryptocurrency as payment is increasingly more of a necessity than a ploy to attract people's attention.

"The adoption of cryptocurrency is far from a gimmick," explained Storm Gonsalves, the property mogul behind the One Bequia project.

An architect's impression of the One Bequia development.-One Bequia

"It’s a response to the very real challenges faced by island communities increasingly cut-off from mainstream banking facilities.

"Residents of small island nations are finding it increasingly difficult to send and receive money internationally because of 'derisking' by large international banks,” St. Vincent-born Gonsalves added.

"Derisking is when these large institutions remove their intermediary banking services from smaller island-based community banks.

"This prevents the island-based banks from transacting internationally. If this trend continues it means small island nations will be essentially cut off from international trade and commerce. For tourism-based economies, this will be devastating".

It is for this reason in part that the Caribbean has been one of the biggest proponents of finding digital currencies, for instance, as a solution to the growing issue.

"This has pushed many Caribbean island nations to adopt blockchain and other cryptocurrencies a lot faster than other more developed nations. Bermuda, Bahamas, Barbados and now St. Vincent are leading the way in this regard," added Gonsalves.

In March, the Eastern Caribbean became the first digital currency union in the world with the launch of "DCash" across four island nations, St Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis.

'People are still sceptical'


Unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are decentralised and unregulated, the DCash will be backed by a central bank.

The ultimate hope is that it will allow people, particularly on remote islands, and even those without bank accounts, to be able to make secure payments.

While the rest of the Grenadines, including larger neighbour St Vincent, remains more traditional, Bequia - known as the "island in the clouds" - is gaining a reputation for forward-thinking and laid-back luxury.

With that in mind, the developers of the villas, which will be equipped with the latest smart technology, believe they are an attractive investment for people who already invest and speculate on cryptocurrencies.

"Not everyone understands the advantage of cryptocurrencies. People are still sceptical," said Gonsalves.

"Early crypto investors are not your typical speculators and they believe strongly in the philosophy of decentralisation behind Bitcoin/blockchain. They are not your typical speculator".

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