El Salvador makes Bitcoin legal tender, while Her Majesty’s Treasury says it’s never experimented with Dogecoin

Yes, I know the Queen doesn’t actually run the Treasury.
Image credit (and deep apologies to): Joel Rouse (Ministry of Defence)

Last week, El Salvador’s congress voted to make Bitcoin “legal tender”. As ever, the Financial Times’ Jamie Powell and Jemima Kelly have the best analysis of what’s actually happening.

Her Majesty’s Treasury, on the other hand, is having none of all this cryptocurrency malarky (for the moment). And why would it? The UK government is not seeking $1 billion in funding from the IMF, and our chancellor already has a good social media game without having to indulge in laser eye memes, thankyouverymuch – unlike El Salvador’s meme-thirsty president.

How do I know? Because HM Treasury told me. I sent them a freedom of information request and they wrote back to tell me that it has never bought or held any dogecoin in the UK Government official reserves. Here it is in black and white, thanks to What Do They Know.

HM Treasury can disclose that it has not bought or held any digital assets, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin or any other type of cryptocurrency, in the UK Government official reserves. Similarly, HM Treasury has made no attempt to mine cryptocurrency or purchased equipment to do so. The gross official reserves, held in the Exchange Equalisation Account, are comprised of foreign currency assets (cash, bonds and notes), gold assets and net positions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR).

HM Treasury

I made the “official reserves” bit italic because it’s technically not what I asked them. I asked whether the department as a whole has ever dabbled in Doge, not whether the UK Government’s official reserves held official cryptocurrency assets. The reserves are still limited to gold, foreign currency and IMF special drawing rights (a basket of foreign currencies which provides liquidity to IMF member countries).

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I find it a bit hard to believe that not one of the 1,200 civil servants who work at HM Treasury have given Coinbase a go. Or, more realistically, tried to figure out how a digital wallet works through its work with the Financial Action Task Force which it helped to introduce the first “internationally agreed standards for regulating assets and currencies including cryptocurrencies and digital currencies.” (Page 31 in HM Treasury’s most recent accounts.) But then again, our FOI laws leave a lot to be desired. If you’re a civil servant reading this and you know the exact phrasing I should use to get the information officers to tell me the government’s Coinbase address, hit me up.

Meanwhile, the idea of a stable, digital “Britcoin” backed by the Bank of England looks increasingly more likely.

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