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Digital currency pilot phase launching today on Exuma

The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBOB) is launching its digital currency, Project Sand Dollar, today on Exuma.

Officials from the central bank as well as commercial bank and digital wallet service providers will be on the island today as the first transactions are made using Project Sand Dollar.

This pilot phase of this digital currency is expected to extend to Abaco in the first half of 2020.

“This is a continuation of the Bahamian Payments System Modernization Initiative (PSMI) which began in the early 2000s. The Bahamian PSMI targets improved outcomes for financial inclusion and access, making the domestic payments system more efficient and non-discriminatory in access to financial services,” the CBOB said in a press release on Christmas Eve.

“Recent surveys document that as part of a financial literacy campaign, there is room to improve both knowledge and awareness of financial products and responsible financial behavior. Opportunities also exist to reduce transaction costs for businesses and consumers.”

The demonstrations will show how payment transactions can be made using a card or mobile phone.

“Feedback from Exuma shows a high penetration of mobile phone usage and a likelihood that a higher share of the population would be willing to use digital financial services including electronic payments. The public though will need more assurances around the safety of conducting online transactions. The digital currency design and public education will tackle these issues,” the release further noted.

“Most of the benefits of introducing a digital currency are still unquantifiable. However, they include a potential suppression of economic costs associated with cash usage and benefits to the government from improved expenditure and tax administration systems. It is expected that the government, as participant and user, would be a strong promoter of digital payments adoption, alongside non-bank payment services providers as the initial lead intermediaries in this space.

“As the pilot progresses in Exuma, the central bank will simultaneously promote the development of new regulations for the digital currency and strengthen consumer protection, especially around data protection standards. The bank will also advance reforms to permit direct participation of non-banks in the domestic payments system. Early passage of the new Central Bank of The Bahamas Bill will support the creation of some regulations, while additional reforms will be possible under the existing Payment Systems Act.”

One of the leading benefits of the digital currency is to allow for equal and expanded inclusion for access to modernized digital payments capabilities for all Bahamian residents, even in the most remote communities, the Central Bank as previously stated.

“Although average measures of financial development and access in The Bahamas are high by international standards, pockets of the population are excluded because of the remoteness of some communities outside of the cost-effective reach of physical banking services. More onerous customer due diligence standards for AML/CFT international tax compliance have also resulted in forms of exclusion, including more recent responses to tighter ‘know your customer’ (KYC) systems introduced to preserve international correspondent banking relationships,” the release noted.

“As recent policy and regulatory reforms have begun to tackle these barriers, the central bank is intent on accelerating payments system reform, admitting new categories of financial services providers and using the digital payments infrastructure to make the supply of traditional banking services accessible to all segments of the population.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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