Polish Crypto Industry Fears Losing Friend in Government
- Existing barriers make 'soft' education impossible
- Public institutions fail to check information before making decisions
The Polish cryptocurrency industry could lose a partner in its drive towards self-regulation, should the government shut down the Ministry of Digital Affairs whose competencies could be transferred to other government entities, according to industry representatives.
Poland’s Minister of Digital Affairs Anna Streżyńska was dismissed on 9 January. The move has further contributed to the ongoing discussion over the ministry’s place in the government. Local observers say that a portion of its areas of competence could be transferred to the newly-formed Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology.
With the legal status of bitcoin still under debate in Poland, the Ministry of Digital Affairs and local players have been making efforts to develop best practices for the Polish cryptocurrency industry. In March 2017, they adopted the Best Practices Code for the Entities of the Cryptocurrency Market in Poland with the aim of enabling the industry to regulate itself.
Prof. Krzysztof Piech, Director of the Blockchain Technology Centre at Lazarski University in Warsaw, was one of the three industry representatives who edited the document. The professor says that the Polish cryptocurrency industry is aware of the need to educate intending users on the potential risks related to investing in cryptocurrencies.
"What the [Polish cryptocurrency and blockchain] industry could achieve has already been achieved," Piech tells Cryptonews.com. "Besides the Code, the Polish Bitcoin Association has warned the public against pyramid schemes and the potential for significant drops in the value of cryptocurrencies, and it has also cooperated with the authorities.
However, some institutions have introduced such impediments and barriers that it is no longer possible to eliminate them by engaging in 'soft' education activities. Now it is the public institutions turn to act."
According to Piech, although it is clear what should be done in the regulatory field, "the political uncertainty related to the future of the Ministry of Digital Affairs, an advocate of the development of the digital transformation of the Polish economy, hampers our functioning and the preparation of regulations."
The professor says that Poland’s cryptocurrency and blockchain industry is developing its own initiatives to strengthen the positive image of cryptocurrencies, but its resources are limited.
"It was only recently that the Polish Bitcoin Association increased its membership, collected member fees, and hired its first employee. The fear of new technologies is significant, and the media tend to exaggerate the related risks," Piech says.
"Moreover, public institutions often believe in what they read without verifying the information on their own, and then they formulate false opinions and assessments without relying on statistical data.”
The National Bank of Poland (NBP) and the Financial Supervision Authority (KNF) have launched a website dedicated to cryptocurrencies.
The mission of the website is perhaps best summarized by its address, which can be loosely translated as www.watchoutforcryptocurrencies.pl. This also reflects the general stance that the website presents toward bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Its Q&A section includes a number of questions related to the legal and economic aspects of cryptocurrencies, which highlight the risks related to investing in what the website calls 'virtual' currencies. However, the section also recognizes that, under Polish law, the sale of bitcoin is not prohibited.
"Currently, trade in 'virtual' currencies does not violate the national laws of Poland," the website says. "There is no precise data on the number of traditional sales and services outlets that accept 'virtual' currencies in Poland, but it is estimated that there are about 100 such outlets."
Despite the regulatory uncertainty, local analysts say the outlook for the country’s cryptocurrency is not necessarily gloomy owing to Poland’s exposure to international developments in this field.