Moving to a broad-based electronic payments regime offers the developing countries an antidote to issues like financial exclusion, rampant waste and corruption in states social and institutional cash transfers and the incidence of hidden or undocumented economy. The latest Government E-Payments Adoption Ranking (GEAR) released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlights just that. The study has aimed to measure the extent to which countries provide key government payment services on electronic platforms and the underlying factors that affect government e-payments adoption. The 2011 GEAR included 62 countries, spanning 6 continents, representing approximately 81 percent of global population and 94 percent of global GDP. The countries have been ranked across 7 categories and 37 indicators. Pakistan is tied with Indonesia at the 47th spot among the 62 countries studied by the EIU. The US, the UK and Norway top the list owing to their comprehensive e-payments landscape, strong policies and developed infrastructure. Nigeria, Uganda and Ukraine are on the bottom of the list, indicating inaction in e-payments adoption. The study reveals a healthy correlation of rankings with high GDP per capita. The study links the range and quality of government payment services to a countrys technological infrastructure, enabling policies and strength of social and economic factors. In fact, it equates an effective and inclusive e-payments system as the core of the "transformational approach" to government. However, just the prevalence of strong technological infrastructure wouldn cut it; connectivity between government, citizens and businesses is cited as crucial for adoption. "Submitting a tax return online, swiping an electronic card to pay for a bus journey or even, perhaps, receiving government health and/or social benefits directly in a bank account are now a way of life in many countries. The ability of governments to offer these services via electronic platforms benefits all parties in the form of reduced costs and increased access," notes the report. A detailed analysis of Pakistans GEAR profile is revealing. The country performs well on certain indicators such as income tax payments and refunds, company registration, and automotive tolls and fines. Pakistan is leading the global average on 10 out of 37 indicators, owing primarily to the policy-level commitment and automation in government organisations like SECP, FBR and SBP. However, the country fares poorly on indicators dealing with the prevalence of e-payment solutions in social security contributions and public transit payments, deployed technological infrastructure, and business and consumer preference for e-transactions. The ubiquity of e-payments may be a distant dream in Pakistan, but public sectors commitment and private sectors interest can do wonders together. The role of the government is important, vis-à-vis issues such as integration of the informal economy and security of the online transactions. The much-needed critical mass and ecosystem can be created as the branchless, mobile and online banking platforms widen their outreach and more automation for payments at the enterprise and consumer touch points can also be achieved.
===================================================================================== 2011 Government E-Payments Adoption Rankings ===================================================================================== Citizen Govt. Business Govt. to Infrastructur Economic & Policy to Govt. to Citize to Govt. Business Social Context context ===================================================================================== China 50 35 38 33 38 43 19 Indonesia 50 40 53 44 37 49 19 India 41 29 43 30 47 54 19 Malaysia 19 30 33 30 20 22 19 Pakistan 47 35 33 33 58 61 45 Thailand 47 35 45 41 39 46 45 =====================================================================================
Source: GEAR 2011, EIU