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Digital finance has the potential to provide access to finance for all in a faster, safer and more affordable manner. However, digital finance can only be utilized to its true potential if a set of public goods is put in place including interoperable payments platforms, digital IDs, affordable smartphones, cybersecurity and an enabling regulatory environment for Fintechs and innovative digital products and services based on consumer needs.

In its efforts to enhance financial inclusion and improve transparency and efficiency of the financial sector, one of the central goals of the State Bank of Pakistan was to establish an instant payment system. It gives me great pleasure that with the establishment of Raast the SBP has achieved that goal.

A digital payment gateway that favors the poor by enabling interoperability and real-time, low-value, high volume digital payments will yield greater utilization and acceptance of digital payments in Pakistan. Interoperability provides freedom of choice, as well as improved options for consumers and merchants with better prices. This in turn drives fair competition based on quality products and services that are responsive to the needs of consumers. In all, this initiative will not only promote financial deepening of the already financially included, but also bring the unbanked and excluded into the fold of the formal financial system.

Raast is a multi-year and multi-organization initiative. With IS banks already integrated, we hope to have all banks onboarded and integrated before the first quarter of 2021 is out. The SBP remains committed to working with Government of Pakistan to digitize bulk payments such a salaries and benefits and especially the social safety net payments under Ehsaas, that have been pivotal to enabling our less fortunate citizens to weather the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to end by expressing my gratitude to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for extending support via Karandaaz Pakistan and look forward to working on the uptake and optimal operationalization of Raast in the months to come.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021