Government serious about digital payments
The Fijian Government has become the latest state to join a UN alliance of governments and organisations committed to accelerating the transition from cash to digital payments to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth
Fiji’s membership falls under the Better than Cash Alliance (BTCA). The BTCA partners with governments, companies, and international organisations that are the key drivers behind the transition to make digital payments widely available.
Fijian Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum endorsed Fiji’s membership under the BTCA and reiterated Fiji’s commitment to inclusive financial policies.
“We are keen to work with our international partners to help meet our target of channelling 85 percent of government payments through digital platforms by 2020,”
The endorsement of the alliance was initiated by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) pacific-based flagship programme, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP).
PFIP Manager Mark Flaming said “the programme recognises that the Fijian Government is working toward creating an enabling environment for the digitisation of government payments. PFIP is eager to support the Fijian Government in the implementation of the alliance.”
In becoming a member, Fiji endorses the guiding principles of the association including:
- broad recognition of the benefits of replacing the use of physical cash with electronic payments;
- sharing of approaches and lessons learned in replacing the use of physical cash with electronic payment systems; and
- increased use of electronic payments systems in programmes and operations to promote financial inclusion increased transparency and efficiency.
Over the past decade, the Fijian Government has made a strategic shift from cash and other paper-based mediums of exchanges to electronic payment forms. Today 70 percent of all government payments are made through electronic platforms.
In 2011, the Fijian Government, in collaboration with PFIP, introduced a ground-breaking platform for social welfare benefits, marking a shift from voucher-based payments by electronic transfer to a bank account, benefiting approximately 33,000 recipients. Funds have since reached welfare beneficiaries in a more timely and cost-effective manner, and the new payment system has also provided recipients with a secure place to save. This was the first Government-to-Person (G2P) electronic payment initiative in the Pacific.
All pension payments to retirees from Fiji’s Superannuation Fund, the Fiji National Provident Fund are also made through banking and electronic channels and, more recently, lease payments through the iTaukei Lands Trust Board.
After the devastating Tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016 (which caused estimated damage of $41.5 billion), the Fijian Government used e-cards pre-loaded with approved amounts to assist families who had lost their homes. Under this Help for Homes Initiative, recipients were able to purchase building materials with the e-cards from selected hardware stores.
Last year Fiji completed its first medium-term financial inclusion strategy and was embarking on the second “National Financial InclusionStrategic Plan 2016 – 2020″ with a target of increasing access to formal financial services to at least 85 percent of the adult population by 2020.
One of the goals of the strategy is to elevate digital financial services. The plan aims to increase the percentage of adults using digital payments from eight to 15 percent over the next five years.
These developments have the potential to provide not only substantial benefit to the Fijian Government but also promote financial inclusion by providing Fijians with an entry point into the formal financial sector, enhancing the welfare of individuals and the economy as a whole.
The Ministry of Economy will serve as the focal point for the alliance.