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Today marks the coming to fruition of the vision, commitment, and contributions by the Government of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Karandaaz Pakistan towards establishing a much needed micro payments gateway system in the country. Raast is a state-of-the-art digital payments gateway established in accordance with the Level One Standards followed for the most inclusive payment systems in the world.

The central goal agreed between Karandaaz and the Foundation is to promote digital financial services in Pakistan. I am very pleased that with the launch of Raast, Karandaaz has achieved a key targets that was committed at the time of its inception.

Raast will enable frictionless digital payments for citizens of Pakistan as a payment from a sender to a receiver will be made in an easy, convenient, and secure way at a very low price. This will also enable bulk payments from government-to-people, transfer of in-country remittances from people-to-people, and payments from people-to-government possible in real time. We are hopeful that Raast will catalyze a culture of using digital payments for micro payments, estimated to be even less than PKR 1,000 per transaction, instead of cash. This facility will help in shifting consumer behavior from using cash to digital as the preferred way of transactions, reducing the burden of cash management at the micro and macro level.

In Pakistan, more than 50% of the adult population, mostly women, lack access to formal financial services. Most households resort to risky, inefficient, and expensive informal channels to fulfill their financial needs. Immediate clearance of transactions through Raast will keep the system-cost low and providers would contribute data to a shared service, ensuring all users and transactions are legitimate and risk free.

With a high mobile phone penetration, Pakistan is well positioned to expand and accelerate digital financial systems and this micropayment gateway will go a long way in spurring financial inclusion in the country and will be giant leap towards our shared objective of every Pakistani being financially included and economically empowered.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021