Government is moving full steam ahead to ensure that more Barbadians have the opportunity to use digital currency instead of cash, says Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn.
He said people conducting business must determine what platform best suits them and their business, but promised that the new Government will be leading the charge on an option that will also save costs as it facilitates more online transactions.
“At the moment it costs a lot to have the existing terminals and all of the merchant systems. So for everybody this is really an opportunity for us now to look and see how we can leap-frog the existing network or systems to move to a more broad-base solution to allow for people to conduct business.
“We are in the process of looking at how quickly we can get these things rolled out. If there are concerns that people have we will address them,” said Straughn, who acknowledged that the process would require more education awareness.
The minister’s comments came against the background of news that commercial banks in Barbados may be abandoning the Caribbean Integrated Financial Services (CarIFS) network in favour of a new system. Although not referencing CarIFS directly, Minister Straughn said it made sense for businesses and financial institutions to embrace more online business transactions.
“I am aware of the issues relating to the payment system in the country. Therefore Government is seeking to make sure that citizens can conduct their business in as efficient a manner as possible not just with government but certainly across the private sector,” said Straughn.
He added it was necessary therefore to “look at the clear business case with respect to the maintenance and existence of the current system vis-á-vis moving to platforms that allow for greater flexibility for everybody involved to be able to conduct their business”. Government too is examining its own cost as it relates to how revenue is collected and payments made.
“We are looking at that to make sure that over the course of the next two years, within Government, we are able to reduce our cost,” he said.
“Each financial institution in the country and each business, whether it is a coconut vendor or a large retailer, now has to clearly look at its own internal operations to determine what is the best platform to transact business,” said Straughn.
He told reporters that since most residents had a smart phone and internet access it was an opportunity for businesses to move to digital payment methods being implemented by financial technology (fin tech) firms.
In September, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that she would be implementing a digital currency pilot project.
And at the end of last month the Central Bank in association with the Financial Services Commission, announced the establishment of a framework for a regulatory sandbox, which would provide clarity for businesses offering innovative financial technology products, services and solutions.
Mmoney, the mobile wallet service of fin tech firm Bitt, was the first to enter the regulatory sandbox, which is expected to be in place for eight to 12 weeks.