Everything that exists will be assimilated into the online world. Some things have already been. This has been found to be true with business, shopping, service, social life, journalism, warfare, and with the recently announced “metaverse”, perhaps even our lives. So it was only a matter of time before the money itself was incorporated into this dimension.

However, everything related to finance has ripple effects that impact and modify all aspects of the economy. It is therefore not surprising that cryptocurrencies are a controversial concept and practice. Like its very existence, criticism of it was inevitable.

The world of cryptocurrency continues to confuse many first-time users, and that’s understandable – it’s still a relatively new concept that isn’t much older than the smartphone. Simply put, cryptocurrencies are coins and currencies in the digital realm, through which a system called cryptography or blockchain verifies transactions and keeps records in a peer-to-peer network.

The appeal of coins and blockchain is not only that, like stocks and markets, money can be injected and profits can be made through investments, but more importantly that the whole system is decentralized. There is no central body that governs or regulates it, and the wallets are protected and accessible only to those who have their “keys”.

There are of course ways to hack online wallets, but it is still an extremely minimal risk if the right security precautions are taken. There is no bank to access the accounts.

This radical decentralization and assured protection keep it beyond the reach of governments, banks and the global financial system. It is not known as “people’s money” for no reason.

Unfortunately, however, such a lack of regulation and centralization has also notoriously made it a haven for fraudulent schemes, money laundering networks and terrorist group financing over the years.

These risks and drawbacks do not deter millions of ordinary people from continuing to deal with the system, however, its advantages and protection from government excesses attracting a particular group of people: those who live in countries suffering from economic crises. or high inflation.

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Lebanon is an example. In recent years, especially since the catastrophic explosion that hit much of the capital Beirut last year, the country has been reeling from an economic crisis. The absence of a viable government, growing political divisions and widespread corruption have only made matters worse, with Lebanon suffering from severe shortages of fuel and essential goods. Above all, its currency fell sharply.

The crisis led the Central Bank of Lebanon to issue rules and regulations that made it impossible to withdraw cash in the form of dollars, apparently in an attempt to protect banks from bankruptcy. Even those with US dollar accounts were only able to withdraw Lebanese pounds – a phenomenon known as “Lollar” – which caused hyperinflation due to the fact that a dollar is worth tens of thousands of pounds. Lebanese on the black market.

Mohamad Kalaaji, a Beirut-based software developer, told me that crypto works around such obstacles. “You can send crypto and exchange it to people who have money… Freelancers can receive funds instantly without losing anything [and] without needing a bank and they can trade with anyone who wants to buy from them. of sites like Binance or Coinbase, then sell it here taking a percentage (like one to five percent). In addition, some companies would accept crypto without any problem. “

The concept has become so popular and needed in the country that a Bitcoin ATM was spotted in Beirut last month. Kalaaji said it “gives transparent pricing and it’s safer because you don’t have to risk being robbed or injured when dealing with an exchanger in person.” He added that “the surprising part is that there are several ATMs in different Lebanese areas which have recently been introduced, and people are going crazy about them to the point that the Central Bank issued a statement against the companies. which deal with cryptography “.

Kalaaji believes cryptocurrencies have a bright future in Lebanon for years and decades to come: “It will change the country’s economic situation if Lebanese expatriates decide to provide cryptocurrency to people here. Not only does it not require an intermediary to receive the money. but it also doesn’t require registration or papers to run a business, which is a huge win… it will be adopted more in the future. “

But above all, as with many Lebanese, it has personally benefited him in the current economic crisis, in which he has stated that the easiest investment method “is to allocate part of my paycheck in Bitcoins. “. While many would intend to make a profit from crypto, it is overall a long-term investment. “I would say that it is an asset class that will protect me from the hyperinflation that is happening here for the future where I will see the benefits …[in] the next ten years. “

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In Turkey, too, the economy is currently experiencing a large and severe rise in inflation, caused by a multitude of factors, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s battle against high interest rates, lack of foreign exchange reserves and d ‘potential foreign investment in the country, and the subsequent fall in the value of the Turkish lira.

Like their Lebanese counterparts, Turks are increasingly turning to crypto to alleviate their financial woes. Some seek to make a profit by trading and others invest for the long term by “holding” their savings in cryptocurrencies, their use has grown up more than 11 times since last year, according to July data.

Istanbul-based teacher Gokce told me that due to the daily devaluation of the pound, “of course keeping my money on a more profitable platform like crypto has helped, because it helps everyone. “. She added that “the adoption of cryptocurrencies is significant in Turkey”, citing public advertisements promoting their use.

The Turkish government, on the other hand, has a different point of view. Erdogan, in September, declared a sort of “war” on cryptocurrencies and expressed concerns about their use instead of reading it. Months earlier, in April, the country’s central bank had banned their use for payment for goods and services. Meanwhile, Ankara announced in July that it was preparing a bill to regulate cryptocurrencies.

Such efforts of strong men like Erdogan, of course, will only contradict what has made crypto popular and trusted by millions: decentralization and deregulation. Once a coin or cryptocurrency – or a platform it’s traded on – is regulated, it defeats its original purpose.

While banks have always tended to bend to the will of governments and, at times, not to act independently, the attraction of cryptocurrencies has been their independence from the hands of the state.

Alex Gladstein, director of strategy at the Human Rights Foundation and crypto market expert and advocate, told me that cryptocurrencies – in this case using Bitcoin as an example – are “a powerful tool for people living in broken economies and authoritarian societies around the world. In recent years, it has acted as “digital gold” as a high performing savings technology and as “digital money” as a censorship-resistant payment network outside the banking system. “

He stressed the importance of the concept for those, especially in the MENA region, experiencing economic crises, saying that it benefits “Lebanese or Turks escaping inflation, Palestinians or Iranians escaping sanctions and sanctions. financial controls, or to human rights activists going about their financial affairs when their bank accounts have been frozen. “

Gladstein predicted that cryptocurrencies in the Middle East “will have an even brighter future. This is something that has a demonstrably positive impact on millions of people, even as governments and international institutions continue to betray them.” .

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The opinions expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.