Pakistan government announces new instant digital payment system

A new government-run instant digital payment system was revealed by the Pakistani government to promote financial inclusion and government revenue in the country where only a fraction of economic transactions occur on the books. The new system, which is dubbed ‘Raast’ or ‘direct way,’ will be launched in three phases concluding early 2022. In a collaboration between the State Bank of Pakistan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Raast will be developed with further support from the World Bank, the United Nations, and the UK government. ‘I hope that in years to come we will look back and see this new digital public good as an important contribution to our shared goal of giving all people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty,’ said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-chair Bill Gates. It will be the first digital cash transfer system to link government entities and financial institutions to allow merchants, businesses, individuals, fintechs, and government entities to send and receive near real-time payments through the internet, mobile phones, and agents. Government payments, including salaries and pensions, will also be made through Raast, alongside payments for nationwide financial support programmes (i.e. the Benazir Income Support Programme and the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme).