News, Events and Notices of the Embassy of Grenada in the Russian Federation

Grenada's Ambassador in an interview with Yugra-Novosti at the International IT Forum

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada Oleg Firer came to Khanty-Mansiysk to take part in the International IT-forum. During his conversation with the correspondent the guest from the far country in the Caribbean Sea shared his impressions about Ugra, Russia being ahead of other countries in the IT sphere and whether bitcoin may become the national currency.

- This is your first visit to Ugra. In your opinion, is it interesting to be here, in terms of tourism?
- Yes, I'd love to come here again, I really liked it. I like nature, and there's a lot of it here. I like different seasons, both hot and cold. Ecotourism is a very popular direction now. Many people want to discover something new. Siberia is one of the places where it is possible to do it. And Khanty-Mansiysk is the first Siberian city I have been to.
- Yes, it's a place with an unusual energy. It's easy to recognize Khanty-Mansiysk on the map. It's the point where the Ob and Irtysh meet. Did you know about it?
- They told me about it. I also heard that the name of the city is associated with two tribes. That's very interesting.
- This is the second day of your work on the forum. Did it meet your expectations?
- More than justified. I saw and heard a lot of interesting things, talked with colleagues and got acquainted with many projects that can be implemented. I really got a lot of useful information at the IT-forum.
- You represent a country that belongs neither to BRICS nor to the SCO. Why were you interested in this event?
- There is GRULAC, a group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia. I represent the Eastern Caribbean countries and my colleagues represent the Latin American countries. The paradox is that I am the only English-speaking representative in GRULAC because I represent the English-speaking Caribbean region. SCO, BRICS, we are all colleagues. It is interesting to open up new horizons, to learn the opinions of colleagues, and to create collaborations.
This forum is called international and I think that this is the right thing to do. We are all one world. Every region benefits from this forum. For example, yesterday, my colleague from Venezuela participated in the "IT Forum without Borders" session. Therefore, it is safe to say that this forum unites countries.
- What ideas at the forum interested you the most and made you think about changes in your work? What have you noticed for yourself?
- I made a couple of notes for myself. I was impressed by many of the IT solutions. I enjoyed listening to Eugene Kaspersky at the opening plenary session, I even wrote down his quotes. By the way, this is the first time I have seen him speak live. I would also like to stress the school system management project, which works interactively with parents: they can choose children's lunch menus by calories, plan their leisure time, and their child's schedule. This is a very interesting system, it has a place on the international market. I also saw an interactive system for museums with virtual reality goggles, as if you get into a painting and can walk around it with a guide and sound. Overall, there were a lot of projects that could and should be implemented.
- From your international work experience, how far do you think our country has progressed in the development of the digital economy, the digitalization of services, including education? And in general, can this serve as a reference point for the rest of the world?
- If you compare it to the Caribbean, Russia is a much more advanced country. If you compare internationally, Russia is more advanced in many areas than those countries that call themselves "electronic", Estonia, for example. Russia is very advanced in collaborative systems, the system of state services. In general, digitalization in Russia is at a very high level, even if you compare it to Europe and the United States. For example, your banking systems are a head above those in the West.
- If we continue with the banking sphere, I would like to point out that you are one of the founders of the American payment system. So you have a certain vision for this market. What is the likelihood of new payment systems appearing? After all, it seems like everything has already been invented a long time ago. Why are there still new ones being created?
- More often than not, the so-called new systems apply old technology. What you see in the economy today is the creation of local systems. For example, the "Mir" system is also not an innovation. Russia simply needed to have its own system. It gives both loyalty to citizens and a closed way for the public sector, because each of them should have its own local payment system. The future, of course, is in electronic currency and blockchain, but that is a separate topic of conversation.
I am a representative of the State of Grenada, the only representative of the Eastern Caribbean, the CARICOM Caribbean Community and the OECS Eastern Caribbean States in the Russian Federation. CARICOM, a Caribbean community, includes 15 English-speaking Caribbean countries. The OECS community, includes 11 Eastern Caribbean states, of which 8 states are united by one economy and one currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, which is regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Why am I telling you all this?
First, on the 18th, the OECS organization of Eastern Caribbean states is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the example minister of Grenada becomes the head of the OECS, it is important to note that the central bank of the Eastern Caribbean was the first to issue an electronic currency in wide use as of 2019. I was involved in the discussions when this digital currency was being created. It is important to understand that this is not a cryptocurrency, it is not a crypto-asset, it is money that is not printed, but exists only online and is widely used in the Eastern Caribbean. Online money is a huge step into the future.
- There is one state in Africa that has declared bitcoin a national currency along with the dollar. Can this trend continue?
- In my opinion, absolutely not. And you will see that in person. An indicator was that, for example, China, on the contrary, has abstracted from it. Today this whole topic sounds more like a hype. And these are the small states that want to reach some other level on this HYIP. Bitcoin cannot even be called a currency, it's more of a crypto-asset. How can you call something that is not regulated by anything today a currency?
- In Russia, cryptocurrency is equalized to an asset, i.e. a federal law came out, and it became legalized as a means of investment. But there are other positions that believe the opposite. Your opinion?
- These are just people's positions. There are a lot of enthusiasts today who call different things different things. After all, there are fundamental things to consider when you create a currency or work with the Central Bank. I do hope that eventually bitcoin, for example, can be fully considered a currency, because in its current form it is not.
- There is the digital economy, and then there is what provides the digital economy. It is, after all, iron, electricity, and those databases that form the blockchain. And somewhere all those servers have to be. They have to provide that infrastructure. In our region, it is believed that because we have inexpensive electricity and there is an opportunity to save on cooling these servers, there are projects to create such "farms." But globally, the region wants to move from them to servers, to data centers that would provide blockchain. How realistic does that sound to you?
- It's very realistic. You correctly noted that you have the climate toward that. It really is a realistic future. In general, any country should think about technology parks, about creating "data centers," about creating "farms. In the future, this will only grow, scale up. This is all a very large industry, which will find many applications: in gaming, in commerce, and will facilitate the work of state corporations and other spheres of life. I note that cryptocurrency and cryptoassets also have a great future. We just need to change the form a little bit.
- You also said something about global investments. Russia is currently under sanctions. How adequate are they now in the digital reality in which we live?
- Generally speaking, sanctions do not affect most citizens of the Russian Federation. They are on another level, for other state corporations. Sanctions are good for the local economy of Russia, because the goods of local producers are beginning to be in demand. A lot of Western corporations that want to work in Russia must localize their resources in Russia. Sanctions are only a plus for the country's domestic economy. For the economy as a whole, and for international companies, digitalization is a salvation which can give access to another level.
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