In the first three weeks of 2018, Vietnam has imported a higher number of mining rigs than it had over the duration of 2017.
Vietnam is emerging as a major mining nation, alongside South Korea, as statistics from Ho Chi Minh City reveal. The latest Customs Department figures show that almost 8,000 mining rigs were imported in January 2018 alone. With an extensive coastline, these figures grant but a glimpse of the probable reality of the movement of mining rigs into the country.
In the first 23 days of January 2018, Vietnam’s enthusiasm for Bitcoin mining has become statistically apparent. Vietnam is among the world’s countries where bitcoin and other cryptocurrency is still not deemed legal tender, and one cannot employ the currencies inside the country for payment.
Massive Imports Shows Large Mining Uptake
The mining rig imports represent a spend of over $12 million by the citizenry. While many regulators in Southeast Asia are stamping their feet and mooting legislative protocols for the cryptocurrency, the government coffers are swelling from import duty on mining rigs.
Reporting to the Ho Chi Minh City Law Department on January 24, 2018, deputy director of customs Nguyen Thanh Tuyen pegged the exact total imported at 7,932. Media outlet Tuoi Tre also disclosed that the tax earnings from the rigs imported over the first three weeks of January 2018 at nearly $1.23 million, or ₫28 billion.
The current purchase price for the rigs is sitting at around ₫70-100 million ($3,080-4,400). Predominantly Chinese, the rigs are geared towards accessing the highest rewards Bitcoin mining has to offer, at least for the home user.
The publication Tianphong also noted that in early 2016, mining rigs were selling for around ₫35-40 million ($1,540-1,760). In the rise of Bitcoin circa 2017, the price paralleled the coin’s fortunes, rising to ₫45-60 million ($1,980-2,640) for mining rigs.
Although the initial spike and hysteria has subsided, with bitcoin’s value now just over half of what they were a few very short months ago, the price of mining rigs now sits at the highest current levels, and some outlets are charging up to ₫100 million ($4,400) for a mining kit.
According to Bitcoin.com, 2017 saw a total of 7,005 mining rigs imported into Vietnam. Not surprisingly, the bulk were imported in the heydays of November 2017, with 5,527 on the books for that period.
Before that, a mere 1,478 entered the country in 2017, up until the rush at year end. These figures, quoted from the HMC Customs Department, also omit rigs built on home soil and undeclared gear brought in under various guises.
Legislators Still to Rule on Bitcoin
Tianphong quoted Tuyen as saying that the acts of mining Bitcoin and importing mining rigs for the purpose are “still normal [legal] because there are no regulations for the import of such goods.”
In a somewhat vague extrapolation, he went on to say that the State Bank’s current policy surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is that “Bitcoin and other similar virtual currencies are not legal means of payment in Vietnam.”
He added that citizens found trying to employ the currencies as transactional currencies would be fined from ₫150-200 million ($6,600-8,800) and “may be subject to criminal prosecution, [since] 1 January, 2018.”
As the use of cryptocurrency really hinges on vendors acquiescence and willingness to accept the coins, the current legislation seems more an attempt at social engineering than anything else, as there is currently no vendor trade with cryptocurrency within Vietnam.
The threat of criminal prosecution for merely offering payment in cryptocurrency seems geared towards cutting off any public sentiment that might spill over into market dynamics. This while the regulators make up their minds on an official stance to adopt towards Bitcoin and others.
In a blunt reiteration of the party line, the deputy director of State Bank, HMC branch, Nguyen Hoang Minh, recently singled out bitcoin and litecoin in particular when he said, “they [cryptocurrencies] are not currencies and are not legal means of payment under Vietnamese law.”