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Sri Lanka formulating strategy for digital economy

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is developing a National Financial Inclusion Strategy focusing on payment gateways and digital financial services, in a broader effort to improve accessibility to finance and global markets for citizens and small businesses.

Separate working committees have been set up to look into establishing a national payments gateway and improving infrastructure to support digital financial services platforms.

Earlier, the ITC Agency of Sri Lanka took the lead in setting up a national payment gateway but got into hot water for crossing into the Central Bank’s jurisdiction.

"That’s very much part of the agenda. It’s a priority," said Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy at the launch of the Development Process for Sri Lanka’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy, Tuesday.

"We’re taking a holistic view of what financial inclusion means. We will look at access to markets, and not just financial services and payment gateways," the Governor said.

IFC, the private sector arm of the Word Bank, is providing technical and financial assistance to Sri Lanka’s Central Bank which is spearheading the initiative.

The banking regulator is consulting a wide group of stakeholders including bankers, business and academics.

According to the IFC, which also assisted to develop a detailed work plan, the strategy will include clear timelines and targets to improve digital payment infrastructure to support fintechs.

"We’re already working with a few fintechs," said Central Bank Assistant Governor Asoka Handagama.

"The problem with fintechs is that rural communities are slow to adopt them, so this is something we will try to address with the strategy," he said.





Sri Lanka is also trying to attract PayPal, a global payments platform.

"Without PayPal small businesses are finding it difficult to access global markets and this is a pain point we are trying to solve," Handagama said.

"Private banks have been negotiating with PayPal for years, but progress is slow," (COLOMBO, March 20, 2018)

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