Prime Minister Skerrit and BitCoin logo
Prime Minister Skerrit and BitCoin logo

An event expected to involve the distribution of bitcoin to 70,000 residents of Dominica has been cancelled, the Bitdrop website reported today.

Originally scheduled for 14th March, The Bit Drop was billed as an island-wide party that would include free giveaways and educational booths, alongside more eclectic fare such as fire dancing and musical acts.

The website said negotiations broke down when its hosts in Dominica did not provide promised support.

Project manager Sarah Blincoe said that the Dominica government never met certain project deliverables, such as issuing a press release for the event. Further, she indicated an election cycle in Dominica complicated matters.

"This is particularly sad, as a number of alternative Caribbean venues were available, had we known Dominica would not follow through," the website said quoting the organisers.

The decision was confirmed by The Bit Drop Organising Committee, which cited "country-specific logistical decisions" as the reason for the cancellation.

The website said a spokesperson indicated that the project is currently seeking to uncover ways it could move forward on its planned initiative, stating:

'We are still passionate about bringing Let the Bit Drop to fruition and hope that we will be able to re-instate this pioneering project in the future."

Speaking to CoinDesk, members of the Coinapult team expressed their regret about the decision given the year-and-a-half of effort from the organising parties.

Miller indicated that there was interest in continuing the event at another venue.

As the Sun explained in an article in October 2014, Bitcoin is internet money and "it is coming to Dominica on March 14, 2015 at 9.26 am".

But according to information that The Sun received Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Roosevelt Skerrit was being "cautious" and was playing "a waiting game" with the introduction of bitcoin. In the meantime bitcoin said it was ready for the proposed March 2015 massive launching.

The Sun stated that Bitcoin is a "virtual currency" that is becoming increasingly popular among users to purchase goods and services, to transfer to another person, for personal use or to hold as an investment.

On its website, bitcoin claimed that 70,000 residents living on the Caribbean nation of Dominica would be eligible to receive bitcoin as part of 'The Bit Drop' project, an upcoming collaboration between bitcoin businesses, interest groups and local government officials.

"This effort will turn Dominica and its more than 70,000 residents, into the most densely concentrated bitcoin community in the world," the website PanAm Post stated.

The Bit Drop was scheduled for March 14, 2015 and would have featured an island-wide party boasting 'celebrities, musicians and supporters of bitcoin', as well as education booths and free giveaways. The event would also coincide with Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, because he were not authorized to speak on the matter, a local financial expert said: "Bitcoin is like PayPal and if we refuse to embrace it some other Caribbean island will run with it.

"Other countries from the region like Grenada are after them and if Bitcoin gets popular, the share value will increase significantly. They have met with government, with Dr. Kenneth Darroux as the point man; but Government has not taken any decision on the matter. It is not a political thing and the PM has not given the green light especially since his lawyers have not Okayed the matter."

The source added: "The people are genuine and want to make a significant investment and contribution to the economy but you must understand that since there are a number of "remittance agencies" the likes of Money Gram, Western Union, Wire Transfer and others will be affected, because it will be cheaper to remit monies from one point to another, so they are opposed."

Bitcoin officials believe that Dominica, with its relatively small population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), proved an ideal location for the event.

Meantime, economist Dr. Thompson Fontaine warned that Bitcoin in Dominica may not be appropriate at this time. Government has not issued any statement on the matter.

Last year authorities in South Africa warned the public there about the risks associated with the use of "virtual currencies" such as bitcoin for either transactions or investments.

The warning was jointly issued by the National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank, the Financial Services Board, the South African Revenue Service and the Financial Intelligence Centre. It says: "While there are benefits associated with this new technology, it is difficult to assess those benefits against the risks of something so novel, innovative and technologically sophisticated".

Users of virtual currencies can, therefore, become susceptible to fraudulent or any other criminal behaviour as they may be less circumspect than usual when faced with the promise of high-return investment opportunities, said the warning.

"Accordingly, we strongly advise users to consider the concomitant risks when evaluating undertakings involving virtual currencies. The relevant authorities will continue to monitor and assess the use of virtual currencies and consult with private sector stakeholders in this regard. Further guidance or regulations may be issued, should the need arise," the warning said.

A virtual currency is a unit of account that is digitally or electronically created and stored. Members of the virtual community agree to accept these units as a representation of value in the same way that currency is accepted. In contrast to traditional currencies, virtual currencies operate without the authority of central banks, and are therefore not regulated.

Bitcoin is software-based and uses peer-to-peer technology to operate without the involvement of the central bank or commercial banks.