ISLAMABAD

Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Monday said that government is committed to strengthen the laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering laws, to subvert cyber crimes and terrorist financing.

“Cyber crimes have the potential to cast an adversely pervasive impact on any technology-related business. We must also be on guard, and commit to strengthen our laws and regulations, including anti-money laundering laws, to subvert cyber crimes and terrorist financing”, the finance minister said while addressing the International Branchless Banking Conference on Innovations in Digital Finance for Financial Inclusion held here by State Bank of Pakistan in collaboration with UK Department for International Development (DFID).

He further said the draft would soon be presented in the Parliament for proper legislation.

Highlighting the significance of branchless banking for the economy, Senator Ishaq Dar said using digital financial channels such as electronic and mobile banking reduces the probability of theft and fraud. He was of the view that promotion of digital banking will also help increase our remittances which saw a surge of 15.21 per cent in the first four months of current financial year. In the period July to October 2014, remittances stood at $6.078 billion as against $5.276 billion in the same four months of 2013.

To achieve the goal of accelerated GDP, he said, the present government is clearly focused on providing economic and development opportunities to grass-root level segments. These segments include youth, women, farmers, and small entrepreneurs.

“The government’s initiatives to improve market structure and efficiency through modern infrastructure (i.e. energy generation, roads, hospitals) and innovative technologies (licensing 3G/4G spectrum) are aimed to address the constraints to growth and create a conducive environment for investments. This growth will create jobs for lower income people, facilitate poverty alleviation, and promote human capital development”, said the finance minister.

Our credit to GDP ratio is only 18%, savings rate is 13%, and access to financial services is estimated to be less than 20% - one of the lowest in the region. These figures indicate a disturbing gap, which is clearly hindering development of our financial sector and the economy to its realizable potential, apprised Senator Ishaq Dar. He added that signing of MoU between SBP and NADRA today (Monday) is a major step to facilitate the implementation of biometric verification for millions of account opening and billions of transactions in future.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said branchless banking is being encouraged to serve the rural and under-served areas of the country. Pakistan, he said, is one of the largest branchless banking markets in the world with branchless accounts rising to four point seven million.

Governor SBP said now more banks are keen to become part of innovative mobile banking service. He said a special program has also been started to raise awareness amongst the people about the benefits of electronic and mobile banking.

Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said that Pakistan is now the one of the largest branchless banking market in the world, as average monthly transactions have reached 22 million valuing Rs 125 Billion. Number of branchless banking accounts have significantly grown and cumulatively reached to 4.7 million. The combined agent network of all providers has increased to 186,000. However, there number of unique agents is estimated to be 80,000. Average size of branchless banking transactions is Rs. 5,600 (US$56). This indicates that using technology we are now reaching out to the poor and low-income groups.