El Salvador has made history by becoming the first country in the world to make Bitcoin legal tender as part of a pioneering economic experiment.
From today, Bitcoin will be accepted by businesses across the country alongside the US dollar. Every citizen will receive $30 worth of bitcoin pre-loaded onto a government sanctioned e-wallet.
The country’s charismatic young president, Nayib Bukele, took to Twitter to share his excitement with a series of memes after he announced that the government had doubled it bitcoin holdings from 200 to 400BTC, worth just under £15m.
The scheme was proposed as a way to help Salvadorans save on commissions for remittances, mostly sent from the United States. Last year the country’s economy received a $6bn boost from remittance payments, but lost out on $400m paid in commission fees.
Bitcoin, the so-called King of Crypto is renowned for facilitating low-cost, seamless international payments.
The plan to use crypto as a legal tender was approved by El Salvador’s legislature in June by a supermajority with 62 members voting in favour of the bill while 19 opposed and three abstained.
However, Salvadorans feel less certain than legislators about the move. A recent poll by the Central American University found that 67.9% of 1,281 people surveyed disagreed or strongly disagreed with the use of bitcoin as a legal tender, while close to a third of people said they agreed with the policy.
In June, the International Monetary Fund also cast doubt on the plan and said El Salvador’s Bitcoin policy raised thorny financial, and legal issues.