A new electronic payment system from one of the world’s largest financial services companies, with the vocal endorsement of Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds, was unveiled here today.
MasterCard Inc. introduced a mobile merchant machine that will allow any provider of goods and services to collect payment using smartphones.
Making the pitch on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with MasterCard representatives, the Tourism Minister argued that the development would create a critical link between the tourism industry and the financial sector.
He said it was important that all segments of the society were “carried along” on the journey of the development of the country.
“It brings our vendors into the 21st century.
“We cannot have a society in which people are being left behind, and in the same way there is a sense of confidence that small business in Barbados can be nurtured to stand on its own feet, we must spend some time to look at the one man operation,” he said.
Symmonds noted that while focus has been placed on forming closer linkages between tourism, agriculture and manufacturing over the years, the linkage between the tourism and financial services had been neglected “for all time”.
He explained that the new payment system would allow a range of micro and small business operators, including coconut vendors, taxi operators, vendors selling paintings to tourists, renting beach chairs and operating watersports activities, and fish vendors to accept credit and debit card payments.
“They are in danger of being excluded from the financial system by virtue of the fact that as we move towards a society that is increasingly cashless, and to some extent, not as safe as it used to be. Then there must be an opportunity for those people who are doing legitimate commercial activity,” the Minister said.
He warned that visitors who preferred not to use cash would leave the island without spending on products and services and this would leave vendors financially disenfranchised and by extension the country would lose a chance at needed foreign exchange – without the mobile phone payment system.
Symmonds added: “We have to correct that and we have to make sure that we are sufficiently inclusive to keep our micro business people as part of the supply chain so that the service they supply is seen as equally valuable in terms of an opportunity for sale as any other commercial transaction including those in a multi-million dollar investment.”
The project is to be rolled out by July, following a number of public meetings with members of the vending community.
Similar initiatives have been rolled out in The Bahamas and Jamaica.
Symmonds explained that following the swiping or tapping of the credit or debit card against a small electronic device, vendors would be able to use a mobile app on their cellphone to generate a receipt that can be printed or e-mailed.
He said this was also a way for the bank to know more about vendors and make it easier for them to come to a decision whether to offer loans when those vendors apply.
Officials of MasterCard, who are said to be here to offer technical advice, said the intention was to help various industries do more commerce.
Pointing out that the system would encourage millennials to return to the island more often, MasterCard financial services representative Irina Fulcher said it would also prevent vendors from being targets of criminals
Fulcher said: “We are here to help the industries and the society.
“As you know millennials travel with their phones and use their phones to pay now. So how do we make Barbados to feel like home to them now . . . they usually come from cashless societies so how do we provide the same experience to them here.”