Pakistan State Bank Governor on Fintech, Digital Currency and Stripe

State Bank of Pakistan is studying the issuance of central bank digital currency (CBDC), according to the country's central bank chief Dr. Reza Baqir. Recognizing Pakistan's growth potential, the San Francisco-based Stripe, valued at $95 billion, has recently invested in Safepay, a fintech startup in Karachi, Pakistan. Dr. Baqir spoke of both of these developments in an interview with CNN's Julia Chatterly. 

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC):

China's central bank is testing its digital currency in several major Chinese cities. The chairman of the US Federal Reserve has recently confirmed that the US Central Bank is working on digital dollar. The State Bank of Pakistan announced in 2019 that it was developing a digital currency. It seems that the popularity of Bitcoin has triggered serious worries of loss of control of the official financial systems among the central bankers around the world. China's substantial lead in digital currency could put it far ahead of the US in the future of global payments and financial settlement. It could eventually displace the US dollar and provide China with the immense global financial power that the US currently enjoys. 

Dr. Reza Baqir has recently confirmed to CNN what a top official of the State Bank of Pakistan, the nation's central bank, announced in April 2019: the institution aims to issue a digital currency (Central Bank Digital Currency or CBDC) by 2025.  Speaking at the launch of regulations of Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs), central bank officials said in 2019 that EMIs will be non-bank entities to be licensed by the central bank to issue e-money for the purpose of digital payments. Pakistan's finance minister Asad Umar and the central bankers said they are targeting Pakistan's economy to go fully digital by 2030. Here's what Governor Reza Baqir told CNN's Julia Chatterly:
“The benefit for us is twofold: Not only does [potential CBDC issuance] give another boost to our efforts for financial inclusion but, second, if the central bank issues a digital currency, it allows us to make further progress in our fight towards Anti-Money Laundering, towards countering terrorism financing. So, we are at a stage where we are studying it. We hope to be able to make an announcement on that in the coming months.” 
More recently, the State Bank of Pakistan launched Raast, a digital payment system.  It is essentially a pipe that is intended to connect government and financial institutions with consumers and merchants with each other to process payments instantly at very low cost. Raast will be boosted by Pakistan government's decision to use it to pay salaries, pensions and pay welfare recipients under Benazir Income Support and Ehsaas Emergency Cash programs. 
Stripe's Entry in Pakistan:
Stripe, a San Francisco fintech firm valued $95 billion, announced last month that it is entering the Pakistan market with an investment in Karachi-based Pakistani startup Safepay. Founders Ziyad Parekh and Raza Naqvi told Rest of World that they were taken aback by the interest from fellow Y Combinator alumni Stripe. “We were not expecting it and were really intrigued, as they have been a huge inspiration for us,” said Naqvi.“They (Stripe’s founders) understand that partnering up with people who are ambitious and want to tackle a problem is a much better way to enter a market than kind of going in there without any context,” he added. “At a founder-to-founder level, we spoke, and they understood what our vision was.”  
The State Bank of Pakistan recently launched Raast, a digital payment infrastructure that represents a great leap forward for the use of financial technology (FinTech) and financial inclusion in the  country.  It will also promote e-commerce in Pakistan. Undocumented economy poses a serious threat to the country because it creates opportunities for criminal activities and tax evasion.  Raast is part of the government's effort to modernize payment systems and document the nation's cash-based informal economy. 
Pakistan's Potential:
Pakistan is the world's 5th largest population with young demographics offering tremendous growth opportunity. Broadband subscriptions in the country have soared from 2 million in 2012 to 100 million now, according to the nation's telecommunications regulator. Ookla, recognized globally for its broadband speed testing, reports that Pakistan's average broadband download speed is 11.35 Mbps, while its upload speed stands at 10.7 Mbps. Thousands of kilometers of new fiber optic cable is being installed and mobile data usage in Pakistan has recently surged to 8,000 petabytes. Smartphone sales are also swelling. All signs are pointing to Digital Pakistan becoming reality in the near future. 
Pakistan's economy is overwhelmingly cash-based. More than half the population is unbanked. It offers a great untapped market for financial technology firms. Pakistan is also promoting digital payments to enhance financial inclusion and document the economy. Eliminating  interbank digital transaction fees during the covid pandemic has resulted in 100%-200% jump in such transactions.  

Summary:

Speaking with CNN"s Julia Chatterly, the State Bank of Pakistan Governor Reza Baqar said the Pakistani government is currently studying the idea of issuing central bank digital currency (CBDC). China is showing Pakistan the way with its CBDC. There will be an announcement on the country's CBDC in the next several months. Because CBDC is issued by the central bank, it can help the country fight crime and corruption. Pakistan is also promoting digital payments to enhance financial inclusion and document the economy. Eliminating digital payment fees during the covid pandemic has resulted in 100%-200% jump in such transactions. He said fintech companies and digital payment processors like Stripe are welcome to operate in Pakistan. It has the world's 5th largest population with young demographics offering tremendous growth opportunity.

Here's a brief video of Dr. Reza Baqir's CNN interview with Julia Chatterly:

http://www.youtube.com/embed/BZ8MAi-_Qb4"; title="YouTube video player" width="560"></iframe>" height="315" src="https://img1.blogblog.com/img/video_object.png" width="560" style="cursor: move; background-color: #b2b2b2;" />

Views: 169

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 7:01am

The Chinese government has begun to issue blockchain-powered digital currency to its citizens. The Wall Street Journal reports that 750,000 recipients have been determined by a lottery system and can already spend their digital Yuan in stores and online using a special app.

App-based payments are already very common in Chinese brick-and-mortar businesses, so merchants were quick to adapt to the government’s new offer. Starbucks and McDonald’s are reportedly among those already accepting the digital Yuan, as is the Chinese Communist Party.

Ubiquitous digital payments and tight government surveillance have led to a plethora of payment data already available to Chinese administrators. This knowledge on how people spend money will only grow with the implementation of the digital Yuan, even though the country’s Central Bank has said it will limit traceability and create what it calls “controllable anonymity.” With the launch of the digital currency, every Yuan in circulation will either exist as physical or as digital currency. Analysts expect the Chinese government to raise the amount of digital currency in the future, thereby lowering the amount of physical currency available in the market. Some even think China plans to make all Yuan digital at one point.

China is only the second country and the first major economy to officially launch a blockchain version of its own currency. According to Bloomberg, the sand dollar of the Bahamas Central Bank launched last year and was already being accepted in stores in the capital Nassau. Bloomberg identifies four more countries – South Africa, India, Pakistan and Thailand, with concrete plans to launch their own official cryptocurrencies soon. Like some other phone payments, official blockchain currencies have the ability to reach the unbanked, making them interesting for the developing world.

https://thewire.in/world/china-becomes-first-major-economy-to-issue-digital-currency

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 10:20am

Pakistan’s central bank exploring its own digital coin: Reza Baqir

https://nation.com.pk/09-Apr-2021/pakistan-s-central-bank-exploring...

Pakistan’s central bank is exploring its own digital coin, the Governor, State Bank of Pakistan Reza Baqir revealed in an interview on Thursday after China became the first major economy in the world to create its own digital currency.

Expressing his views on a central bank-issued digital currency, Baqir said, "we are at a stage where we are studying it. We hope to be able to make some announcement on that in the coming months.”

The SBP governor told that they have allowed a framework for digital banks to begin their operations in Pakistan. These are the banks, which don’t have a brick and mortar presence and are purely digital like challenger banks or neo banks.

The SBP governor said they are studying it (SBP’s own digital currency) as some countries such as China are already showing the way it benefits central banks.


It will not only boost the central bank efforts for financial inclusion but also allow it to make progress in its fight towards anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing, he added.

Baqir didn’t share any details about the SBP’s own digital currency, but he said Pakistan is open to digital innovation.

“Stripe and other big payment providers are very welcome in Pakistan. It’s a market that’s waiting to burst as far as digitization is concerned,” the governor said while responding to a question on Fintechs.

Explaining he said when the SBP eliminated the IBFT fee in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, its impact was phenomenal. “For the quarter that ended in December, we had a growth of about 150% to 200% compared to a year ago on mobile banking transactions. For internet banking transactions that number is around a 100% to 150% growth.”

Pakistan is a market that is home to the fifth-largest concentration of people. They are young and tech-savvy that are very fertile for such digital innovation, he added.


Earlier this week, China created its own digital currency, a cyber yuan, which is controlled by its central bank that will issue this virtual money.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 11:07am

Pakistan: Central Depository Company (CDC) and National Institutional Facilitation Technologies (NIFT) signed an agreement to enable digital payments through NIFT ePay.

https://nation.com.pk/08-Apr-2021/cdc-signs-agreement-with-nift-to-...

CDC is recognised as the infrastructure backbone of Pakistan’s capital market and it is the sole securities depository in the country, while NIFT is one of the largest payment processors in Pakistan.

This collaboration will enable the investors to use NIFT ePay services for investing into Mutual Funds using CDC’s digital platform” “Emlaak Financials.” Furthermore, the solution will also be facilitating CDC’s IAS account holders to make IAS payments through CDC Access portal.

The agreement was signed by NIFT’s CEO Haider Wahab, and CDC’s CEO Badiuddin Akber at the CDC’s head office.

NIFT’s CEO stated, “We are delighted to be a part of CDC’s newly launched initiative for the Mutual Fund Industry. We understand that the “Emlaak Financials” platform has an aspiring roadmap, and we look forward to playing our role in enabling the platform and in making this service a success. NIFT will always focus to partner for unique and innovative ideas which will uplift the digital transformation in Pakistan.”

At the signing ceremony, CDC’s CEO Badiuddin Akber said, “As we embark on this collaboration with NIFT, it gives us immense pride that we are engaging NIFT’s payment gateway for the first of its kind mutual fund aggregator platform , being launched in the financial landscape of Pakistan. The launch of this platform and its integration with NIFT’s services to enable secure and swift payments for mutual fund investors is in-line with CDC’s vision of enhancing efficiency and ease of doing business.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 11:11am

Pakistan ready to adopt digital financial solutions on large scale, says Easypaisa CEO


https://nation.com.pk/06-Apr-2021/pakistan-ready-to-adopt-digital-f...


“Pakistan is rapidly progressing when it comes to mobile broadband. Our country has enormous potential with respect to widening financial inclusion through digital solutions. Currently, 95 million people across the country use mobile broadband, a number which has grown by 50 million in the past 5 years. A majority of adults have broadband connections in Pakistan serving as a backbone to developing a digital payments ecosystem in the country.” said M. Mudassar Aqil, CEO Easypaisa/Telenor Microfinance Bank, while talking about Pakistan’s financial services landscape.

“96% individuals have a biometrically verifiable ID issued by the government, indicating that a robust regulatory framework is in place which is supported by credit bureaus. Despite these fundamental factors, 70% of Pakistanis don’t have access to financial services when the rails to address these challenges are in place,” he added. During COVID-19, digital payments witnessed a boom. According to the SBP’s quarterly report, 296.7 million e-banking transactions, valuing at PKR21.4 trillion, were carried out during Oct – Dec 2020, growing by 24% in volume and 22% in value compared to the same quarter last year.

“During COVID-19 industry numbers of digital transactions grew at an exponential rate. At Easypaisa, our annual throughput increased by 64% as compared to the previous year reaching PKR 1.5 trillion in 2020. Similarly, the number of active Easypaisa App users reached 3.44 million, registering a 54% increase in comparison to previous year.” he commented. Pakistan is predominantly a cash-based economy. However, things are changing as the use of digital payments is taking center-stage.

Mudassar opined: “The Pakistani economy is ready to adopt digital financial solutions on a large scale as opening a mobile wallet account on a smartphone or feature phone takes less than a minute. Roughly PKR 6 trillion or about one-third of the country’s deposits are in circulation. This is one of the highest percentages anywhere in the world and the only way to reduce this is for every adult in the country to have a mobile wallet. Furthermore, all retail outlets in Pakistan should be mandated by law to accept digital payments from mobile wallets. Tax incentives should also be introduced making digital payments cheaper than cash.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 10, 2021 at 4:09pm

Globally, the value of all outstanding cryptocurrency has jumped to about $2.4 trillion — or more than the approximately $1.2 trillion of United States currency in circulation worldwide — from about $200 billion two years ago.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/09/us/politics/cryptocurrency-regul...


As Scrutiny of Cryptocurrency Grows, the Industry Turns to K Street
Companies behind digital currencies are rushing to hire well-connected lobbyists, lawyers and consultants as the battle over how to regulate them intensifies.

When federal regulators late last year accused one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency platforms of illegally selling $1.38 billion worth of digital money to investors, it was a pivotal moment in efforts to crack down on a fast-growing market — and in the still-nascent industry’s willingness to dive deeply into the Washington influence game.

The company, Ripple Labs, has enlisted lobbyists, lawyers and other well-connected advocates to make its case to the Securities and Exchange Commission and beyond in one of the first big legal battles over what limits and requirements the government should set for trading and using digital currency.

Ripple has hired two lobbying firms in the past three months. It has retained a consulting firm staffed with former aides to both Hillary Clinton and former President Donald J. Trump to help it develop strategy in Washington. And to defend itself against the S.E.C., it hired Mary Jo White, a former chairwoman of the commission during the Obama administration.

Ripple is just one of a long list of cryptocurrency companies scrambling for influence in Washington as the Biden administration begins setting policy that could shape the course of a potentially revolutionary industry that is rapidly moving into the mainstream and drawing intensifying attention from financial regulators, law enforcement officials and lawmakers.

“There is a tectonic shift underway,” Perianne Boring, the president of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a cryptocurrency lobbying group, told other industry lobbyists, executives and two House lawmakers who serve as industry champions, during a virtual gathering last month. “If we don’t start planning and taking action soon, we have everything to risk.”

So far, cryptocurrency has been a highly volatile investment, but it is already starting to alter the way individuals, companies and even some central banks do business. Firms like Ripple, which is based in San Francisco, run cryptocurrency platforms that allow customers to make nearly instant global payments through a system that operates largely outside government monetary networks.

-------------------

The House this month passed a bill backed by industry lobbyists to create a working group of federal regulators, industry executives, investor protection groups and others to examine possible frameworks for a regulatory system.

“We need to get the big prize done,” Representative Darren Soto, Democrat of Florida and a member of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, a group of lawmakers working with the industry to help promote cryptocurrencies, told the industry conference last month. “Which is the statutes and jurisdiction and definitions to create that certainty, to really let blockchain and cryptocurrency flow and improve in the United States.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 16, 2022 at 1:46pm

Meet the Investor Who Spots Opportunities for Jeffrey Katzenberg
Anthony Saleh oversees a growing venture-capital fund at the former Hollywood chief’s WndrCo, after its Quibi video app collapsed. He also works with the rapper Nas.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/meet-the-investor-who-spots-opportunit...


While working with Nas several years ago, Mr. Saleh cold-emailed Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to discuss ideas, Mr. Horowitz said. The two men got to know one another, and in 2013, Mr. Saleh called Mr. Horowitz to say he and Nas were interested in bitcoin after seeing how many “unbanked” people in the world had no checking account but did have a cellphone—a dynamic he said could decentralize finance. When Mr. Horowitz later heard about Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange platform, he brought the duo into the investment.

Last year, Coinbase Global Inc. was one of six investments in Mr. Saleh’s personal portfolio that ended in a public offering.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 18, 2022 at 6:43pm

E-banking transactions exceed GDP

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2343698/e-banking-transactions-exceed-gdp


Speaking at the launch of Raast Person-to-Person (P2P) Instant Payments System on Tuesday, the central bank governor said that e-banking transactions were considerably more than the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP), which currently stood at $370 billion.

“If the figure is $500 billion now, you can imagine the pace at which we are digitising,” he remarked, adding that those transactions showed a year-on-year growth of 30.6% in volume and 31.1% in value.

Baqir said that there were around 190 million mobile phone subscribers in the country whereas only 80 million people had bank accounts, meaning that there were over 100 million people who had mobile phones but they did not own a bank account.

“Therefore, there is a huge potential for enhancing financial inclusion,” he said and expressed hope that the Raast initiative would help bridge the gap.

The SBP governor pointed out that Raast was different from other programmes as it facilitated free-of-charge transactions within seconds. He was hopeful that people would take benefit of the revolutionary system.

The State Bank has taken many initiatives for ramping up the pace of digitisation. In this regard, the installation of Point of Sales (POS) machines has shown a growth of 50% and it is expected to rise further at a rapid pace.

In collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the SBP will also facilitate people in undergoing biometric verification remotely for opening bank accounts.

The new banking system will be established in line with the Roshan Digital Account that has been introduced for overseas Pakistanis.

“Individuals can use Raast platform in their daily transactions similar to cash and they will not have to pay any fees or charges for using this payment system,” Baqir said. “It is secure, convenient and free of risks compared to cash.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 14, 2022 at 7:15pm

The Indian economy is being rewired. The opportunity is immense
And so are the stakes

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2022/05/13/the-indian-economy-is-...

As the country emerges from the pandemic, however, a new pattern of growth is visible. It is unlike anything you have seen before. An indigenous tech effort is key. As the cost of technology has dropped, India has rolled out a national “tech stack”: a set of state-sponsored digital services that link ordinary Indians with an electronic identity, payments and tax systems, and bank accounts. The rapid adoption of these platforms is forcing a vast, inefficient, informal cash economy into the 21st century. It has turbocharged the world’s third-largest startup scene after America’s and China’s.

Alongside that, global trends are creating bigger business clusters. The it-services industry has doubled in size in a decade, helped by the cloud and a worldwide shortage of software workers. Where else can Western firms find half a million new engineers a year? There is a renewable-energy investment spree: India ranks third for solar installations and is pioneering green hydrogen. As firms everywhere reconfigure supply chains to lessen their reliance on China, India’s attractions as a manufacturing location have risen, helped by a $26bn subsidy scheme. Western governments are keen to forge defence and technology links. India has also found a workaround to redistribute more to ordinary folk who vote but rarely see immediate gains from economic reforms: a direct, real-time, digital welfare system that in 36 months has paid $200bn to about 950m people.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 14, 2022 at 7:33pm

Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-...


Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is planning to roll out a digital identity wallet later this year in a move that will end the need for physical ID.

NADRA is tasked with digitising all citizen data in the country, which – with more than 220 million citizens – is the fifth biggest in the world in terms of population.

As part of a digital push aimed at generating benefits including greater financial inclusion, the authority is working on a significant evolution of the existing ‘Pak-ID’ smartphone app – which was itself only introduced seven months ago, the authority’s chairman Tariq Malik told Pakistani media Dawn.

Launched last September, Pak-ID allows citizens to apply for a physical ID card remotely by using their Android or iOS device to scan documents and biometric data including their fingerprints and take a picture to verify their identity. When it was introduced, NADRA proclaimed that Pakistan had become ‘the first country in the world to introduce ID technology’. Two weeks later, the authority launched a similar biometric verification service for the banking and payments industry. With five banks initially participating, the service enables customers to open bank accounts and undertake biometric authenticated financial transactions using a mobile-phone camera.

Hailing Pak-ID’s debut, prime minister Imran Khan called the app “a revolutionary step in providing convenience, especially to overseas Pakistanis”. It seems these expats have at least partly driven the decision to launch the digital identity wallet by updating the Pak-ID app. “In a short span, 75,000 overseas Pakistanis have processed their national identity cards from the comfort of their homes by using the app,” Malik told Dawn. “With successful testing on 75,000 overseas Pakistanis, NADRA will go for a digital wallet.”

The wallet would be “a leap forward putting an end to the conventional physical ID” and is to be made available “later this year”, Malik said. “The digital dividends of such technology innovation will yield positive results in contactless banking, financial inclusion, ease of doing business and e-governance initiatives by offering remote identification and e-KYC [know-your-customer procedures].”

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 14, 2022 at 7:47pm

Pakistan to launch digital ID wallet this year
By Daniel Tost - March 8, 2022, 6:19 pm

https://www.globalgovernmentfintech.com/pakistan-to-launch-digital-...

Focus on unregistered citizens
As of January, 96 per cent of Pakistan’s adult (above 18) population, have a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), according to Islamabad-headquartered NADRA. Pakistan started rolling out its Smart National Identity Card (SNIC) in 2012 in a programme overseen by NADRA and aimed at replacing CNICs. Currently, both types of cards remain valid.

Recently, NADRA has focused on unregistered individuals (citizens without an identity card) by creating an ‘Inclusive Registration Department’. Its aim is to enhance registration, especially for women, minorities, transgender and unregistered persons. The agency targeted 80 districts with a gender gap of more than 10 per cent in registration figures. Eighteen female-only NADRA centres were opened to overcome socio-cultural barriers of women cautious about dealing with male staff. Additionally, 262 mobile registration vans and 80 ‘ManPack’ mobile units have been deployed countrywide for people living in remote areas or senior citizens who may struggle to travel. In total there are more than 700 registration centres operating countrywide and in all 154 districts of Pakistan. According to a NADRA press notice issued last month, the gender gap has been reduced by 40 per cent in targeted districts.

NADRA says it holds the largest biometric database of citizens in the world. The security of such a stock of citizen data is clearly important but the authority states that its SNIC is equipped with 36 security features, using a layering system to safeguard sensitive information.

Principles for interoperable ID
Pakistan’s move comes against the international backdrop of high-level principles to support the development of mutually recognised and interoperable digital ID systems and infrastructure having been drafted by a working group on digital identity comprising representatives from eight countries.

The 11 principles call for digital ID infrastructure to be open; transparent; reusable; user-centric; inclusive and accessible; multilingual; secure and private; technologically neutral and compatible with data portability; administratively simple; able to preserve information; and effective and efficient.

In its report, the Digital Identity Working Group (DIWG) said its goal is to enhance trade agreements and to ‘facilitate economic recovery from Covid-19, for example to support the opening of domestic and international borders’.

Established in 2020, DIWG comprises Australia, Canada, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the Netherlands and the UK. It is chaired by Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency.

Comment

You need to be a member of PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network to add comments!

Join PakAlumni Worldwide: The Global Social Network

Pre-Paid Legal


Twitter Feed

    follow me on Twitter

    Sponsored Links

    South Asia Investor Review
    Investor Information Blog

    Haq's Musings
    Riaz Haq's Current Affairs Blog

    Please Bookmark This Page!




    Blog Posts

    Hateful Hindutva Ideology Infects Indian Diaspora

    Hateful Hindutva ideology is spreading rapidly among the Indian diaspora. Individuals and organizations connected to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) are actively working to promote India's divisive Islamophobic politics among the Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and their children. Hundreds of the RSS shakhas (branches) are now found in at least …

    Continue

    Posted by Riaz Haq on October 4, 2022 at 9:30am — 6 Comments

    US-Pakistan F-16 Deal: Indian EAM Jaishankar Throws a Tantrum

    “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things," said Indian External Affairs Minister Subramanian Jaishankar to his American hosts in Washington. He was lashing out at the United States for the State Department's explanation for the $450 million F-16 "sustainment" package sale to Pakistan. Earlier,  the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in an announcement: 

    “This proposed…

    Continue

    Posted by Riaz Haq on September 29, 2022 at 5:30pm — 20 Comments

    © 2022   Created by Riaz Haq.   Powered by

    Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service