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In recent years, technological innovations and digitization in various sectors of the economy has emerged as a key driver for promoting financial access especially to the underserved population. For a developing country like Pakistan where only 21% of total and only 7% women population is financially included, and cash is the major mode of making payments, technology presents excellent and efficient alternatives for provision of financial services and financial inclusion.

One of the recent phenomenon in digital payments is the adoption of fast-payment systems across various geographies and economies around the world. These advanced, state-of-the-art instant payment systems provide a cheap and universal access to all players in the financial industry including banks and fintechs. These faster payment systems are helping policy makers designing policies that spur economic growth by especially facilitating small businesses and individuals.

I am excited that SBP with the support of Karandaaz Pakistan has deployed the infrastructure of Pakistan's Instant Payment System, named as Raast. With the full implementation of Raast, millions of customers will experience the benefits of instant payments. Merchants will be able to accept fast payments remotely and can instantly access funds in their transaction accounts, just as they would with cash. This will be helpful to micro and small business owners, who can then pay suppliers on time and fulfill other urgent payment obligations. The flow of funds from governments to individuals such as salaries, pension, and social safety payments of Ehsaas program can also work quickly.

Among other benefits, users will be able to send requests for payments and initiate payments using identifiers such as phone numbers or any other alias. The benefit for ecosystem players will be instant and seamless connectivity or integration with the system as Raast will be able to accommodate overlay services through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). We are confident that with the launch of Raast, Pakistan will enter into a new era of digital payments. SBP is committed to keep on innovating and bringing policies and infrastructures that facilitate customers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021