The government, the Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBOB) and the Clearing Banks Association are accelerating the country’s move to digital payment systems by advancing the use of credit cards, debit cards and Sand Dollar transactions, and reducing the use of cash and checks over the next five years, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed in his 2020/2021 budget communication yesterday.
Turnquest said those entities hope to reduce the use of checks by 80 percent in five years, by promoting the use of an electronic clearing house to allow direct payments. They are also eyeing a reduction in the use of cash by 50 percent in five years.
Turnquest explained that Hurricane Dorian and now the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have revealed the need for greater financial inclusion and ease of payments through the use of digital channels.
“We recognize though that although the government, the private sector and the banking sector have all been working toward greater use of digital transactions for payments, these efforts have often been siloed, running on separate tracks and moving at different paces,” said Turnquest.
“The lessons of Dorian and presently of COVID-19 have demonstrated that, as a matter of national priority, the various stakeholders need to collaborate and move in unison to accelerate the adoption of digital payment systems. Yes, it is a matter of national efficiency and national competitiveness. But as recent hurricanes and the current pandemic have shown us, it is also a matter of national security.”
According to Turnquest, a task force will be assembled to ensure that legal, bureaucratic and cultural obstacles do not impede the digital transition.
He added that the exercise is not meant to eliminate the use of cash, but to extoll the advantages of digital payments for businesses and the unbanked.
“Cash will continue to be a feature of the payment system,” said Turnquest. “However, the further entrenchment and utilization of digital means has the opportunity to expand financial inclusion, to open new business opportunities, to bring sophisticated financial services to even the most remote parts of the country and to improve personal and business security.”