“It has to take its time for all of us to be sure that at least, with the given available information, we are making a discerned decision. It can’t be rushed,” Sitharaman said during an interaction with students and faculty at Stanford University in California.
“There is impatience outside saying what are you doing about crypto… I understand the impatience but I’m sorry, that’s how it is going to be,” she said.
The minister clarified that the government is open to promote innovation and well-grounded progress made in the distributed ledger technologies, which are coming in the blockchain. “Our intention is in no way to hurt this (innovation around crypto)…but (we need to) define for ourselves.”
Despite the positive aspects of the technology, there are concerns over its possible misuse for money laundering and terror financing, she said. Cryptocurrencies with all their positive contributions can also be manipulated towards not so desirable ends. “These are some of the concerns,” she said.
Sitharaman, in her Union budget speech in February, had proposed a 30% levy on gains from transfer of virtual digital assets, which has been implemented from April 1. However, the government is yet to clarify its stance on whether cryptocurrencies would be regulated or banned.
The government has maintained that imposition of the tax did not mean giving these assets recognition and that they would be dealt with separately after intensive consultations.
The Reserve Bank of India has expressed serious concerns about cryptocurrencies.
Sitharaman, at a separate event in the US, said the government and the RBI were looking at several commercial use purposes of the proposed digital currency of the central bank, expected to be launched by 2023. The finance minister is on a week-long official trip to the US and has interacted with various businesses.
Sanctions against Russia
In an interconnected world, sanctions can have unintended consequences, and India is trying to work through them, Sitharaman said.
Economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and European Union following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February have led to a fall in bilateral trade with Moscow. The ongoing war also fuelled energy prices and a shortage of foodgrains.
The minister said India’s stand on the Russia-Ukraine war is with the view to safeguard its economic and security interest.
“So, India’s position is not just for its economic interests, but also its security interests. The balance that India has taken in every decision in this context… is because of the geopolitical location of India,” she said.
Sanction always has an impact on not just the country on which it is imposed but on many other nations, she said, adding “It can have collateral impact on many others who probably didn’t intend to have the sanction.”
So, unintended consequences do bear an immediate and strong impact on countries in this digitally connected world, she said.