Islamabad: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been actively exploring multiple avenues within the RAAST payment systems. The central bank is engaged in ongoing discussions with various government entities, including the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), to facilitate integrations aimed at streamlining the processing of their bulk payments through RAAST.

The forthcoming P2G or G2P system within the RAAST framework is poised to significantly enhance the nation’s digital ecosystem. This development will not only simplify tax payments for taxpayers but also provide added benefits to recipients of government assistance programs.

As per the SBP’s Annual Payment System Revenue report, RAAST has efficiently handled over 208 million transactions, totaling Rs. 4.3 trillion since its launch.

A comprehensive study entitled “Uncovering the Untapped Potential of Responsible Digital Payment Solutions for Merchants in Pakistan,” undertaken by the “Better Than Cash Alliance,” has postulated that Pakistan holds the potential to significantly enhance digital inclusion while fortifying the digital liquidity landscape through the digitization of Government-to-Person (G2P) and Person-to-Government (P2G) payment systems.

In a recent milestone, the central banking authority ushered in the revolutionary RAAST Person-to-Merchant (P2M) platform, effectively granting individuals the capability to engage in electronic financial transactions with merchants, leveraging innovative channels such as QR codes, Aliases, IBAN, and the Request to Pay (RTP) mechanism. The RTP feature empowers payees with the ability to instigate payment requests to the payer, marking a pivotal step forward in the realm of digital payments.

Furthermore, the implementation of RAAST has significantly streamlined the disbursement of government salaries, GP funds, and pension disbursements under the purview of the Accountant General Pakistan Revenues (AGPR). The seemingly interminable queues that once characterized AGPR offices have now been relegated to the annals of history.

The Raast person-to-person instant digital payment system is going to speed up the economy’s digitization and people’s financial inclusion. The system has been developed by the State Bank of Pakistan in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Karandaaz Pakistan. The initiative was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan, which will bring a revolution in the country’s financial payment ecosystem and further strengthen his vision for digital Pakistan.

The first phase of the system was launched in January 2021, which only included the transactions between organizations. The second phase is a person-to-person payment system. Now a person can make a transaction through his mobile phone with no charges. Raast has four special points: payments would be done in seconds, there would be no banking fee, a person’s mobile phone number would be their Raast ID number and link to their bank account, and it would be available on every channel.

In addition, if a customer is not happy with a bank’s service, they could de-link it from their Raast ID and add another bank instead. The maximum limit for Raast payment is Rs200,000 per transaction. The Raast system will link financial institutions, government agencies, microfinance banks, fintech, and commercial banks.

This is shown in the diagram below. Raast initiative will increase Pakistan’s financial literacy, which is currently only 13%, and increase the ratio of electronic transactions as well as banking penetration. The Initiative will increase the interoperability of the financial institutions and enhance low-cost digital payments. The Raast system is a customized payment system, enabling even the less educated.

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