A two-day SAARC Payment Council was held in Cox’s Bazar aiming to cut remittance cost and bring a huge population devoid of banking coverage within its ambit.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman inaugurated the conference at the Hotel Sea Royal Tulip Pearl in the resort town on Thursday.
Twenty representatives of the central banks of South Asian countries took part.
Rahman said the apex banks of the SAARC countries meet regularly and learn from each other, though SAARC itself has shown lesser movement.
“Senior officials of the central banks of the eight SAARC nations have been exploring for some time ways to simplify bank transactions. This time, they will discuss ways to reduce remittance costs to bring people outside bank coverage into the monetary system,” he said.
With the latest Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) already in place, the Governor called for initiatives in the setting up what is being described as the SAARC payment platform.
Sums worth millions were being transacted through mobile banking ‘bKash’, he pointed out, adding that it could make remittance possible as well.
“Our expatriates will be able to send money from Singapore if bKash ran there. This will have a double benefit: it will make quick-time, low-cost remittance possible, on the one hand, and help do away with ‘hundi’, on the other.”
Citing Bangladesh’s remarkable success with mobile banking, Rahman said SAARC countries must share their experience regarding mobile financial service and agent banking as well.
Reserve Bank of India’s Deputy Governor Harun Rasheed said: “The payment system and aspects beyond it would be discussed. Financial inclusion, too, would be looked at. This is an opportunity to improve relations among SAARC nations.”
The SAARC Payment Council was formed during a meeting of the finance ministers in 2007.
The idea was to build the infrastructure for quick financial transactions through information technology.
In the inaugural function chaired by State Bank of Pakistan’s Sayed Ahmad, speakers stressed mutual trust and increased communication to activate the SAARC Payment Council.
Bangladesh Bank Deputy Governor Najnin Sultan, too, spoke at the function.