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Billionaire Draper Presents Sri Lanka on Bitcoin, Gets Rejected

(Bloomberg) – A billionaire cryptocurrency evangelist may have had a tougher reception than expected when he proposed widespread Bitcoin adoption to a bankrupt country.

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Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper was in Sri Lanka to film an episode of his TV show Meet the Drapers with local entrepreneurs and met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday to promote cryptocurrency adoption. He traveled to the central bank the next day with the same stance – but embattled governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, who is still working to calm the financial chaos, had none of it.

“I’m coming to the central bank with decentralized currency,” announced Draper, dressed in a bitcoin tie for the meeting, which was held in a teak-paneled room overlooking the sea.

“We don’t accept that,” Weerasinghe said, taking another sip of fizzy ginger beer.

Several times during the meeting, Draper referred to what he described as Sri Lanka’s reputation for corruption, arguing cryptocurrency is a solution. Colombo could avert transplants by keeping perfect records after bitcoin adoption, he argued.

“Have you seen Sri Lanka on the news? It’s known as the capital of corruption,” Draper said. “A country known for corruption will be able to keep perfect records with the adoption of Bitcoin.”

Sri Lanka’s top currency official countered, “The adoption of 100% Bitcoin will never be a reality in Sri Lanka.”

It’s a frostier reaction than Draper has had in some other places. The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau, for example, made him a founding resident of its digital residency program.

Fuel and food shortages in Sri Lanka sparked unrest last year, forcing the then President to flee the country and later resign. The indebted country is in talks with international creditors about debt restructuring with the aim of persuading the International Monetary Fund to implement a rescue plan. Inflation is at 54.2% and the economy has shrunk by 8% over the past year, the governor said.

For crypto enthusiasts, this seems like the perfect place for Bitcoin adoption. One of the main use cases people see for crypto is as a persistent store of value that is not subject to changes in central bank or government policies. Draper even cited El Salvador at the meeting, which has adopted bitcoin as legal tender. But experiences like El Salvador’s, which avoided a last-minute default just last month, could serve as more than anything else a cautionary tale.

Read more: El Salvador’s $300M Bitcoin ‘Revolution’ Fails Badly

Draper, 64, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and early backer of companies including Tesla, Baidu Inc., Skype, Coinbase and Robinhood, made headlines in 2014 when he bought bitcoin seized at a US Marshals Service auction. Bitcoin is hovering in the low $20,000s – but he sees it reaching $250,000 this year.

He kept trying Weerasinghe. “Does the administration have the courage to do this?” he asked. “What is the benefit of having your own currency?”

Weerasinghe said other technologies could efficiently distribute financial services to promote inclusion and pay e-welfare benefits, noting that a country without its own currency cannot have monetary independence.

“We don’t want to make the crisis worse by adopting Bitcoin,” he said.

The meeting lasted 30 minutes.

–With the support of Anusha Ondaatjie.

(Updates with Draper’s comments on corruption from fifth paragraph)

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