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Singapore DPM Heng Swee Keat warns retail investors against cryptocurrency trading

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaks at the podium at the Asia Tech Summit in Singapore on 31 May 2022. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat warns retail investors against cryptocurrencies during the Asia Tech Summit on 31 May 2022. (PHOTO: Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat warned retail investors to “steer clear” of cryptocurrencies following the recent Terra Luna crash which saw investors losing life savings.

That said, the crypto asset space, while highly risky, still had the potential to transform the future of finance, said Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, on Tuesday (31 March) at the opening of the Asia Tech x Singapore 2022 Summit.

“We must continue to adapt our rules to ensure that regulation remains facilitative of innovation, and yet addresses the key risks that crypto assets pose,” added Heng.

The DPM’s warnings to retail investors echoes calls from The Monetary Authority of Singapore which has consistently warned the public against trading in cryptocurrencies.

In January, the MAS issued guidelines to discourage cryptocurrency trading, including how Digital Payment Token service providers should not promote their crypto services to the general public. This was on the basis that trading in crypto was highly risky and volatile.

In April, Singapore passed a law that required virtual asset service providers which only do business overseas to be licensed.

Underpinning the warning was the recent crash of TerraUSD and Luna which saw the cryptocurrency fall by more than 99 per cent earlier this month.

Terra, which ranked among the top 10 most valuable cryptocurrencies, dropped below US$1 on 11 May, after having peaked close to US$120 last month. Some investors later took to the Reddit forum to state how much they have lost, with some losing life savings.

The meltdown triggered knock-on effects on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Heng noted.

“Retail investors especially should steer clear of cryptocurrencies. We cannot emphasise this enough,” said Heng.

Tokenisation

However the digital asset ecosystem comprised a range of services beyond cryptocurrency trading and the Singapore government remained “keen to work with blockchain and digital asset players to encourage innovation, and build up trust in the sector,” he said.

MAS granted licenses and in-principle approvals to 11 digital payment token service providers in the past two years. These include stable coin players such as Paxos, Coinhako and financial institution DBS Vickers.

“We will continue to evaluate applications, and facilitate live experiments through regulatory sandboxes, to enable safe adoption in the financial sector,” added Heng.

As part of the digital asset initiatives, Heng also launched Project Guardian, which he said was a “collaborative effort by MAS to partner the industry to explore the tokenisation of financial assets and develop the future of finance infrastructure”.

The first industry pilot will be to explore potential Decentralised Finance (DeFi) applications in wholesale funding markets.

“In short, we must approach emerging tech with an open mind, separating the hubris from its true underlying potential," he said.

“Through regulation, we work constructively to realise the gains of these new technologies, and partner responsible and innovative players with strong risk management capabilities to build the foundations of the digital asset ecosystem,” Heng added.

Separately, Heng also introduced two new programmes which leveraged quantum technology to solve “real-world challenges”.

The two initiatives under the Quantum Engineering Programme are the National Quantum Computing Hub which will strengthen talent development, and the National Quantum Fabless Foundry, which will support micro and nanofabrication of quantum devices across partner cleanrooms.

"Our investment in quantum computing and quantum engineering is part of our approach of trying to anticipate the future, and proactively shaping the future that we want," Heng said.

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