Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Ryan Straughn, has described the National Payment System as critical to Barbados’ transformation.
However, Mr. Straughn has proffered the view that this transformation will only be effective if citizens and business people adopt the new technologies that will be offered.
He made the comments today as he addressed the online BIBA Talks with PwC session, under the theme: New National Payment Systems, Implications for the Ease of Doing Business in Barbados. This country’s Digital Payments Bill was debated in Parliament in February 2021.
The Minister said Barbados was on a transformative mission. “Transformation requires that not just government, but businesses and citizens commit to reviewing and assessing everything that we are doing and how we’ve done it, in order to ensure that we can do it better and deliver better service, such that in a 21st century economy, we can have greater financial inclusion….
“It will take some time, but the earlier that we can get comfortable with the new technologies and the new e-wallets and the various apps that will be a part of the payments ecosystem, … and the public has confidence in the solutions that will be deployed, then I know we will achieve significant financial inclusion,” he stated.
Mr. Straughn indicated that the introduction of a comprehensive digital payment system would solve some of the know your customer requirements, which would satisfy correspondent banks, and thus minimise this country’s risk of being associated with money laundering. He added that new jobs and initiatives would also come on stream with this new payment system.
Mr. Straughn told his audience that the digital payment system was also intended to help solve the access to credit issues that many small, medium and micro enterprises as well as individuals faced.
“That is absolutely important for us to be able to accelerate the recovery and to ensure the recovery is as inclusive as possible, thereby ensuring that in a COVID environment, especially, that we’re actually able to maintain and sustain business….
“It takes time for the automated clearing house (ACH) to be upgraded; it takes time for the financial institutions to come on board and get their systems up and running. As I speak, I know that a number of the commercial banks are now in the process of doing the final round of testing as it relates to the migration on to the real time ACH. The larger credit unions will be starting their testing and are expected to come on stream by November of this year,” he said.
The Minister noted that the soon to be launched new digital ID would complement what was being done on the digital payments side.
He indicated that government departments were reducing their use of cheques, and pointed out that since the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of pensioners had opted to have their pensions sent to their bank account.
“That number has effectively halved since the onset of COVID and we would love to see it come down even further,” Mr. Straughn stated.