Cellular payment system

Published: May 29, 2019

Anything that works efficiently in a particular country does not mean that it will work smoothly in another country. After announcing the preparation of a lunar calendar and a related app, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has come up with a plan to introduce a payment system that will operate through mobile phones only.

He has been inspired by what he has seen in China. During a recent visit to China, he said, he observed that almost everyone was paying bills through cell phones. Now he plans to introduce an integrated system through which everything, from fruits to car, can be purchased through mobile phones. He said after this system gets well entrenched, it would obviate the need for credit and debit cards.

We welcome the minister’s plan considering the fact that it will help in documenting the economy and thereby make tax evasion difficult, if not impossible. But before introducing a China-like system for payment the ground realities should be kept in mind. First, payments cannot be made through all mobile phones.

Second, the level of mobile phone penetration in the country. Third, the level of education and internet penetration. The level of education and internet penetration are not at that level where a generalised system of payment through mobile phones can be introduced. Despite the increasing number of mobile phone users, it is still not at that level where a universal mobile phone payment system can be successfully implemented.

Further, the tedious process, though justified due to the prevailing security situation facing the country, involved in obtaining a mobile SIM card should also be kept in view. Of course, the mobile phone payment system is functioning well in China. We will have to create conditions conducive to adopting a universal system of mobile payments. In the absence of proper conditions it will all be empty talk. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2019.

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