Amid this outbreak of Coronavirus, nations are putting their best foot forward and taking unprecedented measures to curtail the situation at hand.
Globally, the ‘Coronavirus Economic Crash’ is a popular topic of discussion as it will have a devastating impact on the global economy. To mitigate the risk of a global economic meltdown, it is imperative for countries to curtail COVID-19.
Washing and sanitizing hands regularly is considered to be one of the best bets in the fight against coronavirus. However, there’s still the possibility of contracting the virus through objects that we touch daily such as currency notes.
Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) state that the coronavirus can survive on the surface of currency notes and the organization has issued a worldwide recommendation to the public, advising against the use of tangible currency (cash notes, coins and debit/credit cards) to limit the spread of the virus.
Countries that have been greatly affected by the pandemic, such as China, have taken specific measures to disinfect banknotes. They have started putting currency notes through a high-heat ‘laundering’ process to get rid of any traces of the virus before releasing them for circulation. Similarly, the U.S. Federal Reserve has begun quarantining physical dollars repatriated from Asia before recirculating them in the U.S. financial system as a precautionary measure.
In light of the global warning issued by the WHO, it is safe to say that measures are required to entice change in customer behaviors and preferences. Pakistan, being one of the newest victims of COVID-19 with more than 500 cases reported already, has a pivotal role in this situation.
Pakistan’s Love of Paper Currency
According to estimates, approx. 80% of all transactions in Pakistan are cash-based. Paper currency is the preferred mode of payment for individuals and businesses on all levels. Earlier, this was done to avoid taxes but at this moment, using paper currency possesses a threat since the way notes are exchanged here is a risk.
Recently, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has introduced stringent measures to limit the coronavirus crisis by promoting the use of Digital Payment Services and to avoid all contact with physical objects like notes, etc.
In addition, SBP has also instructed all banks to waive off all transactional charges for customers using their online fund transfer services including Intra and Interbank Fund Transfers (IBFT). In addition to that, the SBP has also advised banks to run campaigns on print, electronic and social media to create awareness and promote the use of Alternate Delivery Channels (ADCs) to limit the use of currency notes and minimizing branch visits.
Easypaisa and Other Mobile Wallets
A silver lining is the use of mobile wallets and digital banking platforms like Easypaisa. At such a time when currency notes pose a risk of getting infected, m-wallets and payment solutions have a responsibility to take the reins and being the leaders of change.
When Easypaisa was launched in 2009, it was the first of its kind fund transfer service and today, with a refreshed digital platform, it is one of the most effective tools available to consumers. This is something that newer m-wallets can cash in on and give a healthy competition to the existing ones.
With restaurants shut, government offices facing a closure and all other services suspended, digital and payments and paperless transactions can undoubtedly play its part in promoting a safer environment.
Easypaisa is already providing services to millions of Pakistani users, enabling them to use mobile payments easily without having to deal with paper currencies at all. Similarly, the application’s features areas such that consumers can benefit from a variety of services such as swift money transfer, bill payments, mobile top-ups, insurance payments, easy loads/bundles, ticket purchasing, receiving remittances, etc., remotely without the need of being physically present at a bank or public place.
JazzCash, Keenu Wallet, PayMax and JSwallet are also some of the applications which have similar business models and let you avail all digital banking services remotely via your smartphone.
This is a bittersweet moment where governments, financial institutions, and businesses have a unique challenge but an equally prospective opportunity. In the midst of this lies a distinct opening, to adopt an extensive shift towards digital financial solutions.
Other than the use of mobile applications and digital banking, Pakistan also needs to promote the use of e-commerce, enabling citizens to purchase everyday items. In addition to that, we need wide-scale integration of such e-commerce platforms with payment providers to survive this outbreak.
It has become essential that consumers acknowledge their role in the greater equation for the effective prevention of coronavirus infection. This moment calls for learning from other countries in their fight against this deadly disease.