Tiny Portuguese island of Madeira has ‘adopted’ Bitcoin (BTC) – but what does that mean? The announcement, made during the Bitcoin Miami Conference in 2022, spurned confusion and misinformation.
Madeira Regional Government President Miguel Albuquerque took the stage in April to announce that he believes in the “future of Bitcoin” and will work to “create an amazing environment for Bitcoin.” However, the details remained unclear.
Cointelegraph spoke to André Loja, a Madeiran entrepreneur who spearheaded the plan to bring Bitcoin to the Atlantic archipelago, to explore how Bitcoin is shaping the development of the islands.
The island of Madeira exploded on the Bitcoin world map on April 7 when Samson Mow proudly announced that Madeira will “take over Bitcoin.”
Following the announcement, news outlets around the world reported that Madeira had adopted bitcoin as legal tender. But this was not the case. Loja explained to Cointelegraph that prior to the Samson Mow announcement, Loja would have preferred to use the phrase “Madeira welcomes Bitcoin.”
- “We accept it, we support it. We’re not ‘adopting’ bitcoin because it looks like we’re going to make it legal tender, when in fact it’s already legal.”
In fact, there are no taxes on Bitcoin capital gains in Madeira and throughout Portugal – 1,000 km northeast of the island. This means that any disposition, issuance or use of bitcoin by the island’s 250,000 residents does not need to be reported to tax authorities.
Loja slammed orange pills on the Madeira President just weeks before the conference, sharing his vision for Bitcoin not just as a way to attract foreign investment but also as “protecting my island from the fiat system.”
Coincidentally, Albuquerque visited Loja’s coworking space – one of the few places accepting bitcoin in Madeira – and Loja took the opportunity to share his passion for bitcoin. Madeira has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic as key tourism revenue fell off a cliff. Loja therefore presented a bitcoin future to the President as a means of diversifying and restructuring Madeira’s economy, among other benefits.
Albuquerque was reportedly open to the idea, so Loja quickly sought the help of bitcoiners around the world, including Daniel Prince, a renowned bitcoin podcaster; Jeff Booth, the author of tomorrow’s price and even Michael Saylor, CEO of Microstrategy.
Within weeks, Bitcoiner’s all-star team had contacted Bitcoin Miami 2022 organizers to organize the President’s onstage appearance. Ultimately, the support of the head of state of an autonomous region for Bitcoin was an opportunity too big to pass up.
After landing in Miami, Loja and Albuquerque were invited to Saylor’s swanky Miami mansion, “with the yachts and all,” Loja jokes. While Loja had already given the President an orange pill, the conversation with Saylor was on a different level:
- “Michael Saylor sat down with President Albuquerque and good […] It was more like he sat his head down!”
Saylor told Albuquerque that “You need to focus on Bitcoin. Anything else is garbage.” A conversation the President is unlikely to forget, the seminar was sufficient preparation for him to take the stage in front of 25,000 Bitcoin enthusiasts.
Loja stated that the announcement of Madeira adopting bitcoin would “spark an intent” to make Madeira an island where bitcoin thrives alongside the people. For Loja, who has previously translated popular Bitcoin books into Portuguese, “it starts with education: the most important thing.”
Loja (far right), President Albuquerque (middle with book) and Knut Svanholm (far left) in Madeira in May 2022. Source: Loja
Indeed, Loja cut his teeth during the 2018 bear market. As a passionate educator, Loja works closely with other educators in the industry, such as B. Knut Svanholm, author of Bitcoin: all divided by 21 million, to teach the principles of sound money:
- “I have many ideas, from kindergarten to schools to workshops for adults – and to bring people from off the island together. The club will have the best people as advisors.”
To this end, Loja establishes the Sound Money Foundation, a Bitcoin education center in Madeira. The center is supported by Samson Mow and Jeff Booth, among others, and aims to help locals better understand cryptocurrency from an early age.
In addition to the education campaign and focus on improving “financial literacy,” Loja’s hometown is also luring bitcoin companies with attractive tax incentives. At the International Business Center, companies only pay 5% business tax, a very competitive rate. Portugal was already a burgeoning hub for individual bitcoiners, but businesses could now capitalize on it
Related: Bitcoin, Bukele and a host of central bankers meet in El Salvador
Later, Loja plans to have Madeira’s autonomous government mine bitcoin using leftover renewable energy – given the island’s abundant wind and sunlight – and even “run a multi-signature wallet for the government to work financially with bitcoin.”
Madeira’s International Business Centre. Source: ibc-madeira.com
As a result, the government would fully custodian the bitcoins it mined by taking control of the private keys. Loja emphasized that the power grid is a separate “public company,” so any bitcoins mined from the grid would flow into government multi-sig wallets.
In essence, Madeira’s approach to Bitcoin goes beyond its touted status as legal tender. From public sector bitcoin mining to education to government-run multi-sig wallets and Michael Saylor on speed dial, the island is slowly heading toward a bitcoin future.
Unsurprisingly, Loja’s holistic approach to “embracing” bitcoin on the island has a low time preference.