- A Harvard paper has urged central banks to hold Bitcoin as a way to circumnavigate sanctions.
- Only El Salvador has elevated Bitcoin to a national currency, but a number of sanctioned countries may take the bold leap.
- Enthusiasts are looking at countries in the Gulf as potential nations to add Bitcoin to their balance sheets.
A paper from a fifth-year PhD student at Harvard has urged central banks to use Bitcoin (BTC) in their reserves as a way to hedge sanctions risk.
Mathew Ferranti, a PhD candidate, published a paper that has caused a small stir amongst Bitcoin enthusiasts as it called on governments to add the asset class as part of their reserves. Titled “Hedging Sanctions Risk: Cryptocurrency in Central Bank Reserves”, Ferranti makes a strong case for nations facing sanctions risk to hold BTC.
The use of digital assets in evading sanctions has been a heated topic of discussion in recent times, with things reaching a crescendo after Russia invaded Ukraine. In the days following the invasion, Western nations slammed economic and financial sanctions on Russia, which analysts say could shrink the country’s economy by up to 6%.
Since then, the Russian central bank and the Finance Ministry have announced that it will be turning to virtual currencies to facilitate cross-border transactions.
However, the paper notes that centralization in the digital asset industry could be a stumbling block in using the asset class to circumvent sanctions. In March, Coinbase, Gemini, and Binance conceded to the demands of U.S. law enforcement agencies to report any transactions involving sanctioned Russian individuals or entities.
Ferranti’s paper did not broach the subject of the effectiveness of sanctions but notes that they could have some unintended consequences, “like hurting the population of the country that you’re sanctioning.”
In the grand scheme of things, Gulf countries are some of the most sanctioned-hit nations in the world. Despite leaning towards digital assets and distributed ledger technology (DLT), the nations have hesitated to accumulate the asset on their balance sheets.
At the moment, only El Salvador holds nearly 3,000 BTC on its balance sheet. The Central American nation has had its fair share of sanctions from the U.S., with officials and entities facing stiff embargoes.
Gold is giving BTC stiff competition
Ferranti’s paper notes that sanctioned countries are putting their faith in gold instead of turning to Bitcoin. He cites the spike of Gulf nations stacking up on gold but remarks that “you can’t just turn around and buy $100 billion of gold”, so some countries might accumulate gold.
According to Ferranti, the ideal combination will be to have both assets for the benefit of diversification. Ferranti disclosed that he prefers central banks tilting towards gold “because it is five times less volatile” than BTC.