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El Salvador’s Bitcoin Experiment: More Hype Than Hope?

In a recent survey conducted by José Simeón Cañas Central American University, it was revealed that only 12% of El Salvador’s population actively uses Bitcoin, two years after the country made history by adopting the cryptocurrency as legal tender.

The survey further highlighted that a mere 6.8% of respondents have experienced improvements in their lives due to this initiative, casting doubt on the broader impact of this groundbreaking financial experiment.

Shifting Trends in Bitcoin Usage

The latest survey from El Salvador reveals a downward shift in Bitcoin usage: only 12% of locals used it for transactions in 2023, a sharp drop from 24.4% in 2022. This decline prompts questions about Bitcoin’s long-term viability and acceptance in everyday commerce.

Interestingly, usage patterns varied significantly among Bitcoin adopters. While nearly half, 49.7%, reported using Bitcoin just one to three times, about 20% engaged in 10 or more transactions, highlighting a diverse range of engagement with the cryptocurrency.

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Meanwhile, in terms of transaction categories, groceries emerged as the leading sector for Bitcoin use, with 22.9% of Bitcoin users employing it for their grocery purchases. Supermarkets followed closely at 20.9%.

Interestingly, veterinary services also saw a significant Bitcoin uptake, with 15% of respondents using the cryptocurrency for such services, underscoring the varied business sectors adopting Bitcoin.

The survey also noted an increase in the perception of Bitcoin’s positive impact on family life: from 3% in 2022 to 6.8% in 2023. However, a large majority, 93.2%, did not associate any improvement in their personal or family lives with Bitcoin use.

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Contrastingly, the survey highlighted a gap between the adoption of Bitcoin and its perceived effect on El Salvador’s broader economic landscape. A mere 0.5% of those surveyed felt that Bitcoin had contributed to the country’s economic development.

In contrast, a significant portion, 34.3%, attributed any economic improvements to a reduction in crime rates, suggesting that factors other than Bitcoin adoption are influencing public perception of economic progress.

A Landmark Decision Amid Controversy

On June 9, 2021, El Salvador made an unprecedented move in the financial world by officially recognizing Bitcoin as legal tender, a decision formalized in the official gazette. This historic legislation came into effect on September 7, 2021, positioning El Salvador as the first nation globally to officially adopt Bitcoin in this manner.

The decision was met with skepticism and criticism from both mainstream media and traditional financial sectors, especially as the crypto market entered a bear phase. Despite these challenges, El Salvador’s venture into Bitcoin has seen remarkable progress.

By December 2023, amidst a fluctuating market, the country’s Bitcoin investment yielded profits, with the value reaching around $42,000, demonstrating resilience and potential gains in its pioneering financial journey.

New Initiatives and Volcano Bonds

El Salvador’s government, not resting on its laurels, has taken further steps to integrate cryptocurrency into its financial system. In collaboration with Tether, they launched the “Adopting El Salvador Freedom Visa Program.”

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This innovative program requires applicants to make a non-refundable deposit of $999, payable in either Bitcoin or USDT (Tether). Successful applicants then proceed through a comprehensive Know Your Customer (KYC) process, aligning with global financial compliance standards.

In a significant development, the Digital Assets Commission has greenlit El Salvador’s foray into Bitcoin-backed bonds, dubbed “Volcano Bonds.” These unique financial instruments have been sanctioned for accessibility through Bitfinex Securities, a regulated platform within the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange ecosystem.

The National Bitcoin Office (ONBTC) confirms this, marking yet another milestone in El Salvador’s ambitious journey to integrate Bitcoin into its economic framework.


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Donald Haymatter

Donald Haymatter is an expert broker with 15+ years of experience. He stays up-to-date with the latest financial news and trends to help clients make informed investment decisions. Donald is known for his analytical approach and personalized investment advice. Outside of work, he enjoys reading and mentoring young professionals.

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