Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday launched Raast person-to-person payment system for instant digital transactions, saying it would create ease for the masses and bring them into the fold of formal economy.
Addressing the launch ceremony in Islamabad, he said the country's 220 million-strong population could become a "great asset" if brought within the formal economy through digitalisation. On the other hand, if the country did not take advantage of technological advancements and the majority of the population remained outside the formal economy, then it would become a "burden".
Sharing features of Raast, the premier said it would create ease for the common man, especially those who were afraid of going to banks because now they would be able to transfer money instantly through their mobile phones.
In addition, the digital payment system would bring people into the formal economy, he said. "A country progresses when the saving rate increases, we have amongst the lowest," he said, adding that people would have to become part of the formal economy if the country was to progress and the tax to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio would have to be increased.
PM Imran said the government was reaching more people to bring them into the tax net, warning defaulters, "We are about to reach you because we are getting data very quickly."
He noted the State Bank of Pakistan's (SBP) "highly successful experience" of involving overseas Pakistanis through Roshan Digital Accounts and advised the central bank to create a permanent cell to ease the process for them.
Terming overseas Pakistanis the "biggest asset", he said they send remittances that support Pakistan and played a big part in increasing forex.
The system would also make it easier to give money to the lower segment of society as aid, he added.
Raast is part of Prime Minister Imran's Digital Pakistan vision to include the poor segments of society in formal economy. It has been developed by the SBP in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Karandaaz, Pakistan.
'Revolution for financial inclusion'
Speaking at the start of the ceremony, SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir noted that the premier had directed the bank to find new ways for increasing financial inclusion. As a result, the SBP took initiatives to provide banking options to people who previously did not have them.
Baqir said the Raast person-to-person payment system would bring a "new revolution for financial inclusion in our country and make it easier for people to pay each other".
Raast has four special points, he shared, elaborating that the payment would be done in seconds, there would be no banking fee, a person's mobile phone number would be their Raast ID number and linked to their bank account and it would be available on every channel.
In addition, if a customer was not happy with a bank's service, they could de-link it from their Raast ID and add another bank instead, he added.
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also addressed the launch ceremony and appreciated the SBP's hard work regarding digital banking and financial inclusion.
When the system became efficient, people would have to use banks which would increase the national savings rate and reduce money in circulation, he added.