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At the end of September, governments from around the world met at the United Nations to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and paths to which each may be achieved. A key part of that discussion was a Saturday session titled Governments Leading the way: Digitizing Payments and Advancing Inclusive Finance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that “we are committed to moving from cash to digital payments within the UN system. We have seen how digital payments can contribute to greater financial inclusion, allowing greater efficiency, enhancing transparency and freeing up public resources for priority investments.” We want to highlight one key part here: financial inclusion. We believe that governments have a very important role to play in the application and uptake of financial inclusion practices and digitization of payment streams, both internally and those to the population, is one way they may do so.

According to the GSMA, tax payments via mobile money saw a number of new initiatives to leverage the technology in person-to-government (P2G) payments in 2014.[1] The ability to complete P2G, business-to-government (B2G) payments – such as collecting income, sales and value-added tax payments, social security and pension contributions, and company registration fees – over digital channels significantly cuts down on the cost allocated to collecting these payments. Using mobile financial services or digital means instead of cash for P2G and B2G has the potential to reduce fraud, as well as to increase both transparency and revenues for tax authorities.[2]

Government transfers can also be an important reason why people open bank accounts.[3] Among those receiving government transfers into an account in developing economies, about a quarter of those surveyed in the Global Findex 2014 reported that this account was their first and was opened specifically so they could receive government transfers.[4] In Latin America and the Caribbean, use of accounts to receive government payments are especially high, where, on average, 68 percent of transfer recipients receive the payments into an account. In Brazil, of the 15 percent of adults receiving government transfers, 88 percent receive them directly into an account.[5] In other developing countries, however, only about half of those receiving government transfer payments receive them into an account, according to the survey. Globally, 130 million adults without an account receive government transfer payments in cash only.[6]

We expect to continue seeing the prioritization of G2P payments to increase access to financial services around the world. We applaud the UN and the Secretary General for further highlighting the benefits and opportunities created by digitizing government payments and encouraging other governments to digitize their payment streams.

Read the article and watch the convening here: https://www.betterthancash.org/news/blogs-stories/un-secretariat-set-to-boost-digital-payments-within-un-system

Other News:

Asia

Regional: Advancing financial inclusion in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East

Africa

Tunisia: Tunisia rolls out mobile money interoperability

Agents

Global: Critical factors to success for mobile money agents in rural areas

Payments

UK: Payments system in UK to be smashed wide open for challenger banks

Financial Inclusion

India: Financial inclusion need not be pushed beyond a point

[1] Scharwatt, Claire, et al. “2014 State of the Industry: Mobile Financial Services for the Unbanked.” 2015. <http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/state-of-the-industry-2014&gt;.

[2] GSMA, 2014

[3] Kunt, Asli, et al. World Bank, 2014

[4] Kunt, Asli, et al. World Bank, 2014

[5] Kunt, Asli, et al. World Bank, 2014

[6] Kunt, Asli, et al. World Bank, 2014

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