Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A total of 9,728,919 transactions amounting to Nu 16.267 billion (B) was recorded in Bhutan QR Code payment, mobile, and Payment Gateway transactions during the second lockdown, according to Royal Monetary Authority’s (RMA) department of information technology.

This, officials say, indicates a sharp rise in the number of digital transactions compared to the first nationwide lockdown. During the first lockdown, a total of 4,118,435 transactions worth 4.786B was reported.

They also say mobile payment is increasing in Bhutan, replacing usage of cash, and giving rise to cashless transactions with security and convenience, proving that the ATM and Point of Sales (PoS) transactions have not been much used during the recent lockdown.

Of the types of payments made, 92 percent of the digital payments were made from person-to-person (P2P), which consists of donations, self-transfer and rental payments.

Payments related to pharmacy, grocery and vegetable shopping constitutes only seven percent of the total transactions and the remaining one percent of the transactions were payment made to the government for availing services from Roads Safety and Transport Authority, thromde, insurance, timber, and business license renewal.

P2P transfers recorded a total volume of 9,015,298 transactions, showing that the customers prefer to opt for digital payment in the current situation. Of the total payment recorded in this category, the payments are mostly related to rents, utility bills and groceries.

Similarly the QR Code payment has eased both customer and merchant payments for purchasing essentials, replacing conventional physical cash wherein merchants prefer payment through QR Code payment mode.

The person-to-merchant (P2M) transactions have a total of 684,656 transactions recorded until January 27 this year.

RMA’s Payment Gateway has 49 merchants and only seven of them were used actively during the lockdown time, which includes National Land Commission (NLC), government to citizens (G2C) services, T-Cell, BT, Bhutan Buy, Bhutan Power Corporation and Druk Bees.

NLC has marked the top online platform during this pandemic with a total of 7,062 transactions for land tax payment, followed by G2C recorded with 4,966 transactions. Bhutan Lottery, an online platform to buy lottery tickets recorded 4,430 transactions and recorded as third most used online platform.

Meanwhile, RMA in coordination with the four banks such as BoBL, BDBL, BNBL and T Bank Limited has kicked off the campaign of Bhutan QR Code payment system in the southern region yesterday. The campaign began in Phuentsholing and will be rolled out to other dzongkhags depending on the Covid-19 situation.

About 232 shops were covered yesterday, primarily at the three-storied vegetable complex, hotels, groceries and taxis.

An official from the RMA regional office, Dawa, said they planned to start the campaign even before the second lockdown.

“We managed to cover 129 business entities even during the lockdown,” he said, adding that the entities included wholesalers and retailers.

Dawa said usage of Bhutan QR Code payments is firstly aimed to reduce the cash handling and payments. “It also reduces the risk of the Covid-19.”

He said it is efficient during complete lockdowns for home delivery services.

Meanwhile, RMA regional office is planning to cover all the business entities of Phuentsholing within two weeks.