The Hon Albert Isola MP, Minister for Digital and Financial Services
2019 was a banner year for Gibraltar Finance, as our Government pledged to showcase Gibraltar as a jurisdiction that is very much open for business, in these uncertain times. 2019 kicked into full gear, with invitations to a range of high profile events across the blockchain globe, from London to New York, to Beijing, and back again. The year has ended in much the same way as it started. For many of these events, my work was supported by Gibraltar Finance Senior Executives Paul Astengo and Michael Ashton.
Following my attendance at the 15th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention (WCEC) held in London for the first time last month, the next stop was Hainan, China, where I participated in the Governmental Panel at the Hainan Free Trade Zone Global Digital Economic Cooperation Forum. Joined once more by Paul and Michael, we fulfilled a number of pre-arranged media and panel commitments, in an effort to broadcast our jurisdiction’s credentials as an attractive destination for businesses to thrive. The fact that Gibraltar features in these events is a testament to the good work we have done over the past number of years.
The event also enabled us to meet again with our host Leon Li, Founder of Huobi Group, with whom we met on the second day of the forum. This represented the latest chapter of engagement between Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and Huobi, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Gibraltar and Huobi in September – geared towards exploring the development of blockchain education and research initiatives.
The focus of the Hainan forum was squarely on the digital economy, as well as China’s "Belt and Road" initiative – which has been a springboard for China’s increased engagement with the expanding international Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) community. The forum attracted a range of leading global officials as well as academics, business executives, and investors from across China. It is clear that support for the blockchain pilot zone of the Hainan Free Trade Zone is strong, having been established to promote the adoption of blockchain technology, and inspire the development of new and lucrative industries.
The ascent of blockchain technology has been an arc of growth that hasn’t followed any templates or patterns — it has involved bold exploration of uncharted territory. While blockchain’s journey towards the desired level of legitimacy and adoption has been slower than some would like, maintaining a sharp focus on the destination is key. While the foundations have been laid for an extended phase of blockchain exploration at Government and enterprise level, we must avoid complacency. With the news that blockchain development in China is set to experience a compound annual growth rate of 65.7% from 2018 to 2023, there is great momentum building towards something truly special.
In instances where blockchain can provide tangible use cases to tackle long-standing inefficiencies and protracted processes, there should be an openness at Government level to explore exciting applications and facilitate such pursuits. I expect to see the growth in blockchain applications continue in the months and years ahead.
Following this latest visit, and reflecting on a very successful and rewarding 2019, I am very excited by what 2020 can bring. Alongside the Gibraltar Finance team, I look forward to showcasing Gibraltar’s firm commitment to advancing the pursuit of regulatory advances globally, promoting our jurisdiction’s values, and demonstrating how collaboration and innovation go hand-in-hand. 2020 will see us continuing this work, as well as a stronger focus on our traditional markets.
Wishing you all a very pleasant holiday period and a fruitful New Year!