Cash-less Economy Forum in Tajikistan

TajikistanToday.Org (English), Representatives from more than 50 countries discussed in Dushanbe the transition to a cashless economy.

The International Forum “Towards a Cashless Economy: Innovations – Infrastructure – Inclusion” ended in Dushanbe after two days.

This forum, held by the National Bank of Tajikistan in cooperation with the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), gathered more than 250 delegates from over 50 countries of the world.

Representatives of relevant ministries and departments, central banks, international payment systems, international and local experts, as well as representatives of international financial institutions, credit organizations and mobile operators were present during the two day summit.

Participants discussed the electronic and digital financial services and the National Bank of Tajikistan(NBT) informed them about the process and progress of launching special regulatory measures in the central asian republic.

Instruments and new ways of money transfers, e-commerce and innovations in the field of non-cash patments , as well as panel discussions with representatives of regulators from Central Asia and the CIS were on the agenda.

Opening the event, NBT Chairman Jamshed Nurmahmadzoda noted that new digital technologies are quickly perceived and implemented in the financial and banking sector, motivating and attracting other sectors of the economy.

He noted that the NBT considers the development of the payment system as a priority, and in every possible way contributes to the development of cashless payments in the country.

Jan-Peter Olters, Permanent Representative of the World Bank in Tajikistan promised to provide modern, efficient financial services to meet the demands.

This will make it possible to eradicate illegal transfer of funds, as well as the problems associated with corruption,” he believes.

Jan-Peter Olters stressed that ultimately the introduction of non-cash payments will provide an opportunity to achieve the goal not only in this area, but in general will reform the financial system of the country.

“The introduction of non-cash payments also aims to ensure access to social services for socially vulnerable segments of the population who do not have bank accounts,” he added.

IFC Regional Representative for Central Asia Kassandra Colbert noted that Tajikistan is currently at the beginning of the transition process to a non-cash economy.

She stressed that when introducing a non-cash economy, Tajikistan, like other countries, first of all faces difficulties related to the perception of the population.

“People are still not accustomed to carry out non-cash financial transactions, they feel discomfort when they have no cash. But, over time, they will realize that making payments, for example, via mobile phones, is very convenient, ”said Colbert.

The need to raise public awareness is one of the measures.

Digitalization of service

One important part of the discussions referred to issues related to digitalization of financial services and provided some successful examples and practices of implementing electronic & digital financial services.

An expert from Georgia noted that in a similar country like his the non-cash economy was developing already quite dynamically.

He emphasized that this was facilitated by the creation of the necessary legislative framework, as well as the interest of non-cash service providers and the public.

George Tomaradze added that financial literacy of the population plays an important role in the transition to a non-cash economy.

Kennedy Combe, Director of the Financial Availability Strategy (AFI) of the Alliance for Financial Availability (AFI), noted that the forum had managed to gather a completely different, but very important audience.

“This is an excellent opportunity to discuss issues related to the development of digital business,” he said.

He noted that developing countries are positive about introduction of digital services, and are moving in this direction quickly.

“Some countries have made significant progress while others are still working their way through it, but one way or another, the transition to a non-cash economy is generally welcome,” he said.

In his opinion, Tajikistan is moving in the right direction, since the process of introducing digital services is based on the interaction of all stakeholders under the leadership of the regulatory body.

“Even more effective results can be achieved if you interact with other countries through online educational platforms,” he concluded.

Internet access could slows down the introduction of non-cash services

The general director of the company “Arvand” Shoira Sodikova noted that digital services in Tajikistan, compared to more developed countries in the region, are being introduced more slowly.

However, she stressed that Tajikistan has a huge potential since a large amount of payments are still in cash. “This is a large unsplowed field that can be worked through,” the head of the micro deposit organization believes.

According to her, digital technologies in the world are developing so fast that, perhaps, “we will avoid some wrong actions, taking into account the experience and lessons learned from other countries.”

“For example in the recent past a cashless purchase could not be imagined without payment cards, now it is already done directly from the phone. Maybe in the process of transition to a non-cash economy, we will step over some things that become obsolete, and we will do it more safely, thoughtfully and conveniently for our customers, ”said Shoira Sodikova.

One of the main obstacles to introduce non-cash services is the high cost of the Internet in Tajikistan.

“All players in the market should jointly ensure that we have good, high-quality Internet coverage everywhere and, of course, it will have a cost impact” said Sodikova.

She also suggests motivating the retail business to switch to non-cash payments with tax benefits.

“Why do we have POS terminals in our stores, but they don’t use them?” Because it is not profitable for sellers, and customers or they do not use them because of the lack of tools and sufficient financial literacy.

A financial education program is needed in a broad sense, so that people know and see that it is convenient and profitable, ”the head of MDO“ Arvand ”concluded.

Zarina Odinaeva, head of the IFC project to strengthen the financial infrastructure in Azerbaijan and Central Asia, noted that a lot is being done in Tajikistan, both by the state and the private sector in the framework of the National Strategy for the transition to non-cash payments.

“Of course, there is room to move, but the coverage with population maps has significantly improved in recent years. Also, the population is involved in the process of using banking services. But what particularly stands out is that people began to look closely at completely innovative mechanisms: literally in a few months, 11,000 new e-wallets opened in the republic, ”she said.

This, according to Odinaevoy, means that people are ready to use financial products that are quite unusual for them.

“In terms of movement towards a non-cash economy, Tajikistan ranks next to its neighbors,” she said.

According to the NBT, until 1 November this year, credit institutions of the country issued about 1.8 million units of payment cards, which is 5.3% (more than 90 thousand units) more than in the same period of 2017.

The number of holders of payment cards for the last year increased by 85 thousand people – almost to 1.8 million people.

The number of electronic terminals in the country reached about 4.3 thousand units beginning of November 2018, and 3.5 million bank accounts were in use.

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