Pakistan Launches Payment System To Boost Financial Inclusion

Pakistan currency

Pakistan has debuted a government-run instant digital payment system to help with financial inclusion and government revenue, Reuters reports.

Pakistan has the distinction as a country where only some economic transactions happen on the books.

The new system is called “Raast,” or “direct way,” and will be rolled out in three phases culminating in early 2022, according to the news outlet. The system was developed over a period of years by a collaboration between the State Bank of Pakistan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

With the new feature, merchants, businesses, individuals, FinTechs and government entities will be able to utilize real-time payments via the internet, mobile phones and agents, alongside government payments like salaries and pensions, Reuters writes. Payments for nationwide financial support programs, like the Benazir Income Support Programme and the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme, can also be made through Raast, Reuters reports.

The Raast system was also supported by the World Bank, Britain and the United Nations. One goal for the company, according to Reuters, is to boost the role of women in the formal economy.

Also, while there are several private-sector digital cash transfer systems like JazzCash, which is operated by telecommunications company Jazz, or Telenor Pakistan‘s Easypaisa, Raast would be the first one to link government entities and financial institutions together.

“I hope that in years to come we will look back and see this new digital public good as an important contribution to our shared goal of giving all people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty,” Bill Gates said in a statement read out at the announcement on Monday, according to Reuters.

This isn’t the only digital upgrade Pakistan will be receiving soon, as i2c has been tapped to work on the country’s first digital-native super app, PYMNTS writes. The app, called TAG, will work to provide assistance for the 100 million Pakistan adults who are unbanked.