Thukten Zangpo

Domestic digital payments increased significantly, worth Nu 21.79 billion (B) in the first two weeks of the 5th lockdown, according to the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA).

A total of 7.04 million (M) domestic financial transactions were recorded through various digital payment channels from February 23 to March 8 this year.

“Following the announcement of the lockdown by the government, the RMA activated the 24/7 crisis management command centre to provide uninterrupted essential financial services delivery to the general public,” according to the RMA press release.

The RMA stated that the increase in the digital transaction was due to surge in mobile payments with 5.50M transactions amounting to Nu 14.18B. Mobile payments that accounted for 65 percent of the total domestic payments saw an increase of 18 percent in volume and 67 percent in value as compared to the first two weeks of the 4th lockdown.

Under mobile payments, 83 percent (Nu 12.62B) of the transactions were made through intra-bank fund transfer, followed by an online fixed deposit account opening of Nu 398.31M(2.6 percent), and mobile top-up at Nu 185.53M (1.2 percent).

Meanwhile, Bhutan QR code and payment, which accounted for 5 percent of total domestic payments, recorded 1.18M transactions amounting to Nu 1.09B and 112,564 transactions amounting to Nu 111.1M respectively.

“The use of mobile wallets has also increased with a total of 186,484 transactions amounting to Nu 61.23M, contributed by mobile top (65 percent), followed by add-in funds to wallets (22 percent) and merchant payment through QR code (6 percent),” the RMA stated.

The RMA credits the growth in the digital transactions to 3,476 new mobile banking subscribers, along with 6,661 new e-wallet subscribers, which have been onboarded by the banks and telecoms.

Despite the lockdown, the RMA and banks had also facilitated cross-border payments for customers with major payments related to the import of goods and services through bank transfers and international cards.

A total of eight transactions amounting to INR 8,000 inflows were recorded through RuPay. While a total of 479 transactions amounting to INR 1.7M (99 percent cash withdrawal from ATMs in India) outflows were recorded through RuPay card issued by Bhutan National Bank Limited, recording an increase of 14 percent in value as compared to the 4th lockdown.

There was also an increase in online shopping through e-commerce platforms because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

A total of 5,788 transactions amounting to USD 0.26M outflows were recorded through combined international credit and debit cards during the last two weeks of lockdown, according to the RMA.

In the last two weeks, RMA and financial service providers received 16,073 calls related to mobile banking, bank deposits, remittance, and other essential services.

In promoting financial inclusion and literacy, the RMA will observe the 10th Global Money Week in the third week of March 2022 with a theme “Build your future, be smart about money.”

The week will also see a financial inclusion and literacy special program “FinLit Edu-Chronicle” focusing on the youth.